Where's my tax refund? Why IRS checks are still delayed

ByJason Knowles WLS logo
Thursday, August 5, 2021
It's been months; where's your tax refund?
Some people are still waiting to receive their tax refunds from the IRS. Here are some of the reasons yours might be delayed.

CHICAGO -- Waiting on your IRS refund? You aren't alone. Nearly 15 million people are waiting too.

The only two certainties in life are said to be death and taxes, but not a timely tax refund. Frustrated taxpayers want to know the status of their federal refund.

"There's no way to break through the IRS wall of communication," retired technology professional Ken Gillig said. He filed his income tax returns 105 days ago, back in April and is expecting a return of more than seven thousand dollars. He's spent hours and hours trying to get through to the IRS on the phone only to be disconnected by an automated line.

So he started checking the status of his 2020 return on the IRS's website.

"It's given the same message 'your return is being processed'," said Gillig. Then he tried requesting a written summary of his return and got a different message. "There's just one line up here that says 'no record of return filed'. I don't know which to believe. I can't get information out from the IRS, especially, just 'do you have it?'"

The IRS is prohibited from talking about specific cases, like Gillig's but told the I-Team that as of July 24, they had 14.7 million unprocessed individual returns. They are making progress, back in June, the federal agency's backlog was nearly 35 million unprocessed returns, due to the pandemic https://www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/reports/2022-objectives-report-to-congress/newsroom/

The federal agency's website currently states that "...all paper and electronic individual returns received prior to April 2021 have been processed if the return had no errors or did not require further review."

The IRS says many filings need further review because they are incomplete, include errors or are affected by theft or fraud.

Gillig's frustration is echoed many taxpayers who want to know where they stand.

"It would be nice to have a channel into them to just get basics. I'm not pressuring them for the money now, just 'do you have it?'" Gillig said.

The IRS says if a filing has an error it could take more than three weeks to issue a refund. When possible, they'll be fixed without contacting the taxpayer.

If the IRS needs more information, a letter will be mailed and the taxpayer needs to respond promptly to get their refund.

Statement to the I-Team from the IRS:

The IRS understands the importance of timely processing of tax returns and refund issuance. The IRS is also still operating under COVID health and safety restrictions to ensure the health and safety of our workers. Tax returns are opened and processed in the order received.

As of July 24, 2021, the IRS had 14.7 million unprocessed individual returns.

These include tax year 2020 returns that need further review for many reasons, including:

  • Being incomplete

  • Affected by identity theft or fraud

  • Have errors such as an incorrect Recovery Rebate Credit amount

  • Claim an Earned Income Tax Credit or an Additional Child Tax Credit using 2019 income.

  • Includes a Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation, which could take up to 14 weeks to process

  • This work requires special handling by an IRS employee and is taking the IRS more than 21 days to issue any related refund. If a problem can be fixed without contacting the taxpayer, it will be and a notice of the change will be mailed. If more information is needed, a letter will be mailed to the taxpayer. The time to resolve the issue depends on how quickly and accurately the taxpayer responds.

    Taxpayers are encouraged to check Where's My Refund? for their refund status. However, while a return is being processed, neither Where's My Refund? or IRS phone representatives will be able to provide any additional information or a specific refund date.

    You didn't specify what type of refund, so you may want to look at IRS news release IR-2021-159, IRS continues unemployment compensation adjustments, prepares another 1.5 million refunds. It has information about the IRS working to send refunds to taxpayers who were identified as filing and paying taxes on unemployment compensation that was excluded by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 in March. Since May, the IRS has automatically determining the correct taxable amount of unemployment compensation and has issued more than 8.7 million unemployment compensation refunds. The IRS will continue reviewing and adjusting tax returns in this category this summer.

    You may also want to look at IRS news release IR-2021-139 National Taxpayer Advocate assesses tax filing season and identifies areas for IRS improvement in mid-year report to Congress.