The IRS warns that delays in refunds are possible again this year, as the agency starts tax season late.
In late December, the IRS reported a backlog of 6 million original individual tax returns and 2.3 million unprocessed amended returns.
Read on to learn the steps you can take to avoid a late refund.
“You never speak to anyone”
While the IRS says it’s still working to process millions of 2020 tax returns, Racquel Johnson said she’s still waiting for a refund from the 2019 tax year.
Johnson said his family filed a return in January 2020 and amended it this tax season.
“My wife, one of her checks, was not put there. We had to modify it, but it was approved,” Johnson said. “They got it.”
Johnson said she could not contact the IRS to find out what happened to her expected refund.
“You last for two hours and it disconnects you. You never talk to anybody,” Johnson said.
Johnson said she has since sought help from the Taxpayer Advocate Service. Click here to find out if TAS can help you with your tax problem.
Bringing IRS challenges to the fore
According to the National Taxpayer Advocate’s annual report to Congress, customer service representatives were only able to answer 11% of calls received by the IRS in 2021. It’s estimated that one in nine taxpayers might get through.
The report highlighted ongoing challenges at the IRS. Since 2010, the IRS workforce has decreased by 17% while the number of individual taxpayers has increased by 19%.
Additionally, social distancing during the pandemic has forced the agency to close or limit staff at treatment centers.
These challenges remain front and center this tax season.
How to best avoid delays
“If getting the refund as soon as possible is very important to you, then definitely e-file plus direct deposit,” IRS spokesman Clay Sanford said.
The IRS has said electronic filing will be key; paper declarations took eight months to process in 2021.
Use direct deposit to receive your refund.
Triple check your return for errors. Amended declarations require special handling.
“Maybe you had three jobs. You want to wait until you get all those forms together and that will save you from having to do something like file an amended return,” Sanford explained.
Also, keep an eye on the mail. The IRS is sending two new letters to help taxpayers prepare their 2021 income tax forms.
IRS Letter 6475, the Economic Impact Payment Letter, can help people claim the 2021 COVID-19 Recovery Rebate Credit. If you received the third stimulus payment from the federal government last year, the letter will help taxpayers determine if they are eligible to claim the recovery rebate credit when filing their return this tax season.
IRS letter 6419, the Child Tax Credit Prepayment Letter, can help people get the remainder of their 2021 child tax credit. The letter specifies the total amount of the tax credit prepayments for children that taxpayers received in 2021 and the number of eligible children used to calculate advance payments.
Eligible families who did not receive child tax credit advance payments can claim the full amount on their 2021 federal tax return, including families who do not normally need to file a tax return. .
How to prepare your taxes for free
Many taxpayers do not have to pay for tax preparation or even tax preparation software.
You can learn more about the IRS’ Volunteer Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for Seniors programs here. VITA and TCE work with taxfilers who earn less than $58,000, people with disabilities, limited English speakers and people over 60 to prepare their tax returns.
You can use this search tool to find a local site to help you here. Type in your postal code and select the distance you want to travel from the drop-down menu.
If you are in the Dallas area, you can also find a community tax center here.
If you earn too much to qualify for free tax preparation, you may be eligible to use free software to file your own tax return. Taxpayers with adjusted gross income of $73,000 or less can file taxes for free through the IRS Free Files program. It is a public-private partnership between the IRS and tax preparation and tax return software vendors.
If you’re comfortable with the basics of your income taxes and you earn too much for any of the above programs, you can still file for free through United Way myfreetaxes.com.