These next two weeks, Congress will learn the importance of the U.S. tax refund. For millions of Americans, they already know it. They live it.

"These are normal, everyday, hardworking Americans trying to provide for their families," according to Darlene Cook, a Liberty Tax franchise owner in Johnson City, Tennessee. "We commonly see families using these refunds to buy larger ticket items such as cars, medical bills, other household needs that they cannot afford on their regular income. They plan around these refunds to provide necessities for the family. The timing of these refunds is crucial."

Timing is the challenge. As you've probably read, the issue is the PATH Act. It stands for Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes and includes legislation for more than $620 billion in tax reductions for families and businesses. Unfortunately, the PATH Act also means a delay in millions of refunds.

Expect even more delays.

This law prevents the IRS from issuing a refund before February 15th to any taxpayer who is claiming the Additional Child Tax or the  Earned Income Tax Credit. The Earned Income Tax Credit is a benefit for working people with low to moderate income and, by our estimate, the new rule could affect 30 million taxpayers by delaying more than $100 billion in refunds.

Congress allowed this delay in order to give the IRS more time to stop tax fraud. Notable and well-intentioned. The approach seems logical, giving the IRS and tax preparation firms more time to analyze W-2 forms and potentially stop fraud.

The problem is that it hurts our country's poorest families, who need this refund to cover basic living expenses.

The reality is even harsher:  The IRS now says that taxpayers should not expect refunds to be in bank accounts or on debit cards until the week of Feb. 27. The additional time is due to several factors, including long weekends-- this week's Presidents Day is a federal holiday-- and the time banks often need to process direct deposits.

While this delay creates a timing problem, as I've warned in this column, there will also be a cash problem. Very simply, these refund checks will need to be cashed. Yet banks or other check-cashing services don't keep such a large amount of money on hand, so it will be difficult to serve millions of customers all at once.

For millions of Americans, their tax refund is the largest check they will see all year. Single mothers are at the greatest risk because many don't have a financial cushion or a job to cover all of their expenses. We've even seen some of our clients forgo paying their January rent in order to buy holiday gifts, and then catch up later with their refund. By now, that payment is already late. No refund means no rent and a possible increase in the number of delinquency notices and actual evictions.

Landlords will also have to adjust, and the domino effect--more like the economic butterfly effect--will include an impact on discount stores, which have historically recorded billions in sales tied to IRS refunds.

There is no doubt our greatest challenge in the tax industry is fraud and identity theft, and this past year I met several times with other industry leaders, the IRS and the Treasury Department to come up with innovative protection measures for American taxpayers. Delaying your refund was not one of our strategies.

Right now, the IRS is urging taxpayers to check the status of their refund using the "Where's My Refund?" tool. This site is updated once daily, usually overnight, so the IRS advises that there's no need to check it multiple times per day.

The good news is if you're just filing your taxes now, you will be on the IRS regular schedule for return processing and refund payout. It's a complicated year; make sure you have a competent tax pro with you on this journey.