9 Investigates fighting fraud could be costing kids

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TITUSVILLE, Fla. —

The IRS has been working with state agencies like the Florida Department of Revenue since 1982 to identify residents with outstanding child support bills and hold their federal tax refund.

In its 31 years, the program has directed more than $35 billion to children in the form of child support payments.

Recently, some parents have noticed a delay.

In an effort to combat fraud, the IRS places a hold on every return that is flagged for an offset.

While there are basic steps taxpayers can take to clear up the fraud investigation, and release the money, the delay in beginning the process is problematic for some parents.

Parents complain that weeks, even months can go by without anyone notifying them that their tax return has not been delivered.

Titusville resident Robert McQuown said the last two times he filed his taxes, his return was intercepted and held. Each time, he says, he was not made aware of the hold until he called to ask why the money had not been delivered to his son's guardian.

"I called them up and asked about the interception," says McQuown, "and they said they were glad I'd called (because) they've been waiting on my phone call."

The IRS said the delay allows time to investigate fraud and request documentation. The delay also allows the IRS to separate tax returns that are filed jointly, allowing one spouse to claim their entire refund separate from the person owing child support. However, investigating fraud and separating returns can take up to 150 days.

"I've called a lot of people and they just keep sending me back to the same person time after time" said McQuown.

After several phone calls to the IRS and Florida Department of Revenue, McQuown said he finally got his refund released. While the money has been released, Robert said it will take a few weeks before it is credited to his son's account.

In the meantime, he said he is in danger of possible criminal charges for failure to pay child support.

LINK: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/css/resource/federal-tax-refund-offset-program-information-for-families