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Millions still waiting for tax refunds: When will the IRS catch up or answer the phone?

Millions of Americans are still waiting for 2020 tax refunds. Where’s my tax refund? What is my tax refund status? Those are the questions Americans have, and there are few answers being provided by the IRS. These people filed taxes on-time, completed the necessary paperwork, and are still waiting for money the agency promised months ago. Over the last two months, as the IRS has worked on reducing its overall backlog from more than 30 million to slightly less than 10 million, taxpayers have called and voiced frustration.

“I can’t get through, or when I do – they tell me there’s nothing they can do,” Erick Leside told last week. He had been working for weeks-and-weeks to connect with an agent to explain why his tax return said ‘In Process’. “There was absolutely nothing unique about my taxes,” he continued. “I’ve never received a tax return longer than three weeks after filing.”

Phil Williams, a Grand Prairie resident, who was a 38-year veteran of the IRS tells the Dallas News that it’s a matter of staffing. “The IRS is broken right now,” he told them. “They’re understaffed, and their computers are not up to date. The problem is so much came in the mail during COVID-19 that it was stashed away, and they didn’t even open it and process it.” He said it’s impossible to get through to the IRS right now by phone. “Right now, it’s impossible to get through to the IRS unless you pay for a service called enQ, and most professionals use that. I’m paying $60 a month. They’ll put you at the front of the line, but I’ve had to wait at least a couple of hours now because the system is so bad.”

Now, Williams works on behalf of taxpayers who have struggled with getting answers from the IRS.

What has the IRS said about delays lately?

The IRS contends that it will take upwards of 120 days to process tax returns. That could mean months before checks hit bank accounts for some people. This is complicated by the fact that the IRS is also processing stimulus checks, child tax credit payments, and refunding overpayments related to unemployment.

“It’s a disaster,” Marjorie Allice told The Cleveland, Ohio resident has been reaching out to anyone who will listen – as she awaits the next action taken by the IRS. She and her husband received a math error notice, which went out to millions of taxpayers in August and September. That was easy enough to dispute, Allice said. But, came afterward was not. “We got the letter a second time, after we responded to the first one,” she explained. “The second letter indicated that the error was for a different amount than the first.” When she was able to get through to an IRS agent – after waiting on hold for two hours – the representative had no answer.

“They told me to wait, and that in the absolute worst case scenario – it would straighten itself out after they got caught up,” she recalled. For taxpayers like Allice, who are feeling the financial burn from going without their tax refund, time isn’t on their side. “The holidays are coming. It’s the end of the year. We’re working two full-time jobs. And keeping up with the IRS and our tax return and refund feels like a third full-time job.”

What are the reasons for tax refund delays?

The IRS says there are a handful of reasons why tax refunds are still being delayed. Here’s a breakdown of what they say are the most common issues:

  • Your tax return has errors.
  • It’s incomplete.
  • Your refund is suspected of identity theft or fraud.
  • You filed for the earned income tax credit or additional child tax credit.
  • Your return needs further review.
  • Your return includes Form 8379 (PDF), injured spouse allocation — this could take up to 14 weeks to process.

The IRS website also has a portal with more resources. Click here to check it out.

IRS refund letter

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