Tax Refunds Are Delayed As IRS Works To Cut Backlog

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Some tax refunds are taking longer than usual to issue this year because the IRS is still working through a heaping backlog of individual returns, including some from previous years.

The IRS said that on April 30, it had 17.1 million unprocessed individual returns, about a million of them received last year when its offices were mostly closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of those returns waiting for attention have special issues, like corrections needed to recovery rebate credits (stimulus payments) or verification of 2019 income used to claim the earned income tax credit or additional child tax credit.

The IRS has been hampered by a staffing shortage and continued COVID-19-related safety measures. The Treasury Inspector General said that as of March 5, the IRS had 4,434 unfilled processor jobs, and IRS employees are still working under social distancing requirements. To speed things up, the agency has been rerouting tax returns and taxpayer correspondence to locations with more staff and fewer delays.

Most of the time, taxpayers don’t have to do anything if their return requires review, but the special handling by an IRS employee does mean that any refund due will take longer than the usual 21 days to issue.

The IRS recommends paper filers continue to check the progress of their returns with the “Where’s My Refund” online tool. For e-filers who have an acknowledgement that their return was received, there’s nothing to do but be patient. If the IRS requests more information, send it in as quickly as possible.

If you need your 2019 adjusted gross income to electronically file your 2020 return, but your 2019 return hasn’t been processed yet, the IRS advises using zero in the adjusted gross income line.