Still waiting for your tax refunds? Millions delayed by IRS backlog

If you rely on the refund to meet immediate expenses, rent, or even pay down the debt due very soon, you should start looking for alternatives immediately.

Though it’s been four months since May for tax refunds to drop, millions haven’t received refunds yet. Moreover, a few may have to wait even longer, and need not check their mail or bank account for some time now.

In this article

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) processed returns of 8.5 million people only during the first week of September. Usually, the IRS would need three weeks to process returns and pay refunds. However, this year is different. Even advocacy groups formed to assist taxpayers are not able to help as they are swamped.

How much more time would it take?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) couldn’t keep up with the timelines because of the Covid-19 pandemic that made them work with limited staff, technological deficit, and the backlog of unprocessed paper returns since 2019. The IRS claims that they have processed every return that had no errors before April. However, the ones that have mistakes need to be reviewed manually.

Moreover, they also state that there are significantly more errors — like lost information, suspicion of identity theft, and errors in expanded child credit compared to previous years. The IRS is making an all-out effort to reduce delays by transferring returns and taxpayer correspondence to facilities with more staff. Returns are processed in the order they are received so it might take at least 120 days to initiate refunds.

Who can you reach out to?

You can try reaching out to The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) on the phone or by submitting a request on their website. TAS is an independent organization within the IRS for assistance with your taxes and tax disputes. However, their website opens with a message that says “Refund delayed? Our ability to help may be limited.”

Nevertheless, you can get some idea about the status by contacting them. Generally, taxpayers wait for 80 minutes to be connected with a representative.

The TAS claimed that their tasks at hand have raised by nearly 50% during the five years because of more cases, a compulsion to work within a smaller budget, and limited staff. Unlike previous years, they are predicting 253,000 cases — this is overwhelming because they got only 167,000 cases in 2017.

Can nothing be done?

As of now, we can only be patient and wait. Since the IRS is working on the backlogs right now, it would take some time for them to get back to the regular timeline; let alone getting immediate assistance. You can check the refund status by visiting the “Where’s My Refund” page on the IRS website.

If you had used an electronic mode and got an acknowledgment, you don’t have to do anything else — but you can’t file the taxes a second time. However, if the IRS contacts you for additional information, you must respond immediately.

Low Income Taxpayer Clinics have also been roped in to meet increased demand. They prepare returns so that taxpayers would be able to receive stimulus checks and child tax credit payments. If your income has decreased during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, you might be eligible for free or low-cost help from one of the Low Income Taxpayer Clinics that would help you with IRS tax disputes like audits and appeals.

Here’s what you can do if you rely entirely on the refund

The 2020 tax refund is about $2,827, and many people would rely on this refund to pay needs like rent, bills, or credit card debt. Since you have to wait and there’s no possible way to get the refund earlier, you can consider the following ways to make some money quickly.

  • If you’re a tenant, about $46 billion was allotted by the federal government for those who couldn’t pay rent because of job loss, layoff, and pay cut caused by the covid-19 pandemic. However, just $3 billion has reached the people to meet rent, utilities, and other related expenses. You can check the eligibility and apply for it. 

Eligibility for rent relief

  1. If you pay rent as a residential renter.
  2. You (or anyone in your family) is eligible for unemployment benefits, had a pay cut, had to pay large expenses, or encountered financial misfortune directly or indirectly because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  3. If you or your family can prove that you are at the risk of becoming homeless.
  4. Your entire family’s income is lesser than 80% of the area median income.

What you can do

  • If you’re a homeowner, you can refinance the mortgage at the low rates available today. You can also look for a different homeowner’s insurance with better offers in today’s value. This would save you hundreds of dollars a year.
  • Few car insurers are providing a break if you aren’t driving as much as you would have before the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. If your insurer doesn’t offer any discount or break, you can look for other options available to you.
  • In case you are paying back credit card debt, you can apply for a lower-interest debt consolidation loan that would nullify the interest costs and make you pay the debt earlier.
  • Find ways to save money. You can spend more time researching to find the product you want to buy at its lowest retail price, even if it would take weeks or requires you to drive to a distant pickup point.
  • You can consider looking for a part-time job if you have time to spare. Otherwise, you can consider buying stocks at the stock market. Though it’s highly risky, you can expect profitable returns without losing everything, if you trade it with some guidance from the experts. 

This page is purely informational. Line does not provide financial, legal or accounting advice. This article has been prepared for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide financial, legal or accounting advice and should not be relied on for the same. Please consult your own financial, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transactions.

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