It’s been 2 months past the delayed tax filing deadline (May 17), for taxpayers to avoid getting penalized for late filing. But even though they intimidate the taxpayers to file by the deadline, the IRS as of yet has failed to meet deadlines of its own this year.
In their defense, they’ve been forced to handle a larger number of returns by hand on top of the challenge of dealing with a shortage of staff and broken office equipment.
The usual time for taxpayers to get their returns used to be within three weeks of submission previously. Whereas as this year they are lagging way behind with a whooping backlog of over 35 million pending individual and business tax returns, reported as of June end. Since the delay is unusual, the taxpayers could have planned to pay their debts/bills or cover other expenses from the refund money as they would do each year. This has started to cause an atmosphere of panic among people.
Reasons for the delay:
The IRS mainly puts the blame for the delay on the ongoing pandemic situation. They claim that the massive backlog has formed due to the “pandemic-related evacuation order”, which forbade the employees from working in the agency’s facilities. They were forced to work from home but the workforce faced challenges as certain tasks could not be carried out remotely. Various tasks such as receiving, sorting, and distributing mail, and processing paper tax returns – all required to be present on site.
Statistically, the IRS has reported a backlog of nearly 16.8 million paper returns that haven’t been dealt with; about 15.8 million returns that require extra attention; and some 2.7 million amended returns that require processing.
The other pandemic-related issue facing the agency is the shortage of manpower. As of March 2021, more than 4,400 processing positions were vacant, as reported by an inspector general. This accounts for a serious gap in the workforce and puts the existing ones under struggle.
The last straw in all this chaos is added by the old and wrecked office equipment the facility possesses. It was estimated by the IRS management on 30 March that 42% of the machines used for processing tasks were either broken or entirely unusable. Basic devices like printers and copiers were out of ink, or their service contracts were expired and hence not fixed. All of these adding to the hindrances in the process of the returns.
What can you do?
You might be among these millions who are still awaiting processing; it’s best to keep in mind it could take longer than you expected and plan your urgent expenses accordingly.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much in control of the consumers that can be done to speed up the process.
As advised by a national taxpayer advocate Erin M. Collins, in a recent report to Congress: “For taxpayers who can afford to wait, the best advice is to be patient and give the IRS time to work through its processing backlog”
The ones who made sure the files were error-free and complete have lesser chances of their files being flagged to be reviewed manually by the workers.
Frustrating as it is, calling the IRS is not helpful as such either. The service on the phone lines is said to be the poorest service ever, according to the agency. Most of the callers don’t even reach a live agent to voice their issues. Only as few as 3% of the callers could get a hold of a live person during the last filing season.
The only thing you could do is to monitor the IRS Where’s my refund tool available online (https://www.irs.gov/refunds) and hope that gives you an update on your refund process.
If you haven’t applied for your refund yet and need help in filing it, don’t worry! We make walking through the process a breeze. Write to us at email@example.com today.