IRS tax refunds are late for millions of Americans. The National Taxpayer Advocate’s annual report released on June 29 showed that 35 million tax returns were still being held for manual reviews.

The report indicated that most of the backlog is due to the COVID-19 pandemic restricting employee access to IRS facilities, meaning IRS employees were working from home. The combination of the shutdown, three rounds of stimulus payments, challenges with paper-filed returns and the tasks related to implementing new tax laws and credits created a “perfect storm,” according to a National Taxpayer Advocate review of the 2021 filing season to Congress.

The IRS is open again and currently processing mail, tax returns, payments, refunds and correspondence, but limited resources continue to cause delays. The IRS said it’s also taking more time for 2020 tax returns that need review, such as determining recovery rebate credit amounts for the first and second stimulus checks — or figuring earned income tax credit and additional child tax credit amounts.

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to speed up your refund by calling and speaking with an IRS employee. During this filing season, the IRS received 167 million calls, which is a new record. However, only 7 percent of those callers actually spoke to a live person, according to the National Taxpayer Advocate. The IRS says, “Our phone and walk-in representatives can only research the status of your refund 21 days after you filed electronically; six weeks after you mailed your paper return.” You can check the status of your refund from the Where’s My Refund page or download the IRS2Go app.

In addition to the IRS backlog, other reasons you income tax refund might be delayed include:

  • 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.

If the delay is due to a necessary tax correction made to a recovery rebate credit, earned income tax or additional child tax credit claimed on your return, the IRS will send you an explanation. If there’s a problem that needs to be fixed, the IRS will first try to proceed without contacting you. However, if it needs any more information, it will write you a letter.


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