IRS says unprocessed tax returns could take 120 days: Historic backlog sits at 8.5 million

A few weeks ago the IRS faced an historic backlog of individual tax returns. Now that backlog is 8.5 million. The IRS says delays could be 120 days before Americans receive returns or payments for 2020 taxes. For reference, the IRS says that refunds normally take around 21 days to process.

The IRS has an online tool to check your refund status here, but millions are still in the dark about when this all might be resolved. It’s partly to do with staffing- and also due to growing workload.

As was reported over the last two months, the IRS has been handling stimulus check processing, as well as child tax credit payments, which are going out on the 15th of every month.

So for an agency like the IRS, which was short staffed before the coronavirus pandemic these new tasks have added a wrinkle to an otherwise smooth process.

What’s happening with the IRS and why are they still backlogged?

There are a few reasons for this, but the National Taxpayer Advocate says it comes down to a ‘perfect storm’ of issues.

If your tax return is deemed incomplete, or is complete with errors – there’s a strong likelihood that you’ll receive a letter in the mail before receiving an actual refund. Another reason would be that the IRS flagged your refund as suspicious due to identity theft or fraud concerns. The IRS says that earned income tax credit filers, as well as child tax credit recipients are noting some delays in getting 2020 returns paid out. Then there is the Form 8379 for injured spouses. This could take an additional 14 weeks to process.




How long can you wait for a tax return from the IRS? What happens if it never comes?

There’s good news and bad news on this front.

The good news is that any returns that are validated in process will be paid out – even if that means they are rolled into 2021 tax returns.

The bad news is that some families might have to wait until 2022 to see tax returns.

By it’s own measure, the IRS says it only typically takes 21 days for tax returns to be processed. Especially when dealing with refunds. But at this point, the IRS says it “depends on how quickly and accurately you respond, and the ability of IRS staff trained and working under social distancing requirements to complete the processing of your return.”

What can you do in the meantime if you’re waiting for the IRS and a tax return?

Visit the IRS website and use the Where’s My Refund tool. It’s the simplest way to find out what you’re owed, what is happening, and even get extra lead time on potential issues that might come up if you’re one of the 8.5 million still waiting for a refund.


Get the latest headlines delivered to your inbox each morning? Sign up for our Morning Edition to start your day. FL1 on the Go! Download the free FingerLakes1.com App for Android (All Android Devices) or iOS (iPhone, iPad).