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Why millions of tax refunds are still delayed

IRS has not recovered from pandemic's impact
Tax refund loans give cash now to early filers
Posted at 11:26 AM, Aug 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-11 11:26:28-04

Millions of taxpayers have been checking almost daily and growing frustrated with a lack of information about their tax refund.

They don't understand why refunds that used to arrive in two weeks are now three months late, with no updates on when they might go out.

Mike Seidenman is among them. He filed electronically back in February and expected a quick refund of a couple of thousand dollars.

"I keep checking, and all the IRS says is that it is pending," he said. "Normally, it's immediate. Last year we filed and got our refund a week or 10 days later."

Hospital worker Carol Abel is in the same situation.

"When I was checking the IRS website, it did finally say, 'We have your return, but they are still working on it,'" she said. "I have been getting that ever since."

Cynthia Jenkins says her son has been hit with a double whammy.

"He's still waiting on last year's tax refund and his stimulus checks," she said. "He never got either one."

IRS explains reason for record delays

The IRS now admits it is woefully behind on millions of both paper and electronic returns.

The agency recently informed Congress it has a backlog of 35 million unprocessed returns, a record for the month of July.

It blames staffing issues, new tax laws, stimulus checks and now the child tax credit, all of which go through its computers.

Congress gave the IRS the role of distributing hundreds of millions of stimulus checks over the past year without any additional staffing.

The IRS admits it is only getting started processing paper returns because the stimulus program set it back several months.

Carol Abel thinks they need more help immediately.

"If they don't have many people working in the office they will never get anything done," she said.

Why your refund may be delayed

The IRS says your refund could take extra time if you:

  • Filed for the Earned Income Tax credit.
  • Requested a missing stimulus check.
  • Were unemployed last year, and received federal unemployment or PUA benefits.
  • Were one of the millions of victims of unemployment ID theft.
  • Made an error on your return.

The agency suggests you keep checking Where's my Refund at

You can also call the IRS at 800-829-1040, but the agency admits that fewer than 10 percent of people have been able to get through, because it has been receiving millions of calls this year.

Seidenman, Abel and Jenkins are losing patience.

"It's money we definitely could use," Seidenman said.

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