The Treasury Department is warning Americans that the upcoming tax-filing season could be a bit more frustrating this time around.
Much of the blame could fall squarely on the pandemic’s shoulders, reported Tom Costello, at NBC News. “Due to fewer IRS workers on the job, the IRS’ staffing at present is at the same level it was 50 years ago.”
As a result, taxpayers are likely to experience long delays while waiting for the Internal Revenue Service to process tax returns, issue refunds, and process and respond to written taxpayer correspondence.
File Early to Get Refunds Quicker
Planning for the nation’s filing season process is normally a massive undertaking at the IRS. Teams have been working nonstop over these past several months to prepare, IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a recent statement.
“The IRS reminds people there are important steps they can take to help ensure their tax return and refund don’t face processing delays.” Rettig reminds all taxpayers to make sure you report the correct amount to avoid delays to secure a quicker refund.
A mistake can result in having to file an amended return, and this is not the year to be in that position. For example, in 2021, the IRS had issues with millions of e-filed returns due to various discrepancies and errors, and according to the Taxpayer Advocate’s Report, those included 11 million math error notices that meant returns had to be manually reviewed and therefore contributed to delays.
National Taxpayer Advocate Erin M. Collins says: “If a filed return is inconsistent with IRS records, it will require manual processing and likely will cause a delay in the issuance of the refund. Do your best to triple-check everything on your return.”
The way to increase your odds of getting a quicker refund is to file electronically, even if you’ve never done so before, and to file as early as you can. Treasury Department and IRS officials say they cannot emphasize enough to avoid filing a paper return. For those who cannot, of course, file a paper return as soon as you can.
Trouble-Free “Free File?” Yes, Please
The tax filing date has been pushed to Monday, April 18. Those who live in Maine or Massachusetts have until April 19 because of the Patriot’s holiday in those states.
For those making less than $73,000 or less in adjusted gross income for 2021, the IRS is offering their “Free File” program at IRS.gov. The program gives taxpayers free access to brand name software to prepare and electronically file their tax returns. However, if you earned more, you can use Free File forms from IRS.gov/freefile to research your options. Having free access to brand name software programs quite possibly is the quickest way to get your tax refund within just 21 days with direct deposit.
TurboTax notes online: “Intuit has elected not to renew its participation in the IRS Free File program and will no longer be offering IRS Free File Program delivered by TurboTax.” Those who selected TurboTax last year can opt out for another online tax preparation service in the Free File program, according to the Detroit Free Press (TNS).
The majority of people buy tax software to do it themselves or hire tax professionals to handle their income tax returns. Millions of lower income families and the elderly also turn to volunteers who prepare tax returns for free. If you used IRS Free File last year, you are required to receive an email from the same company that you used, welcoming you back to their official IRS Free File services.
‘Be Extra Careful’
“Those who received an economic impact payment or the advance child care credit should be extra-careful,” Rettig added, referring to the recovery rebate credit and enhanced child tax credit.
The Taxpayer Advocate’s Report also warned that this could lead to math error notices or other discrepancies delaying refunds for filers.
If you received unemployment benefits last year, you’re likely to pay taxes on that money. The exclusion from 2020 is no longer available. Those who received letters from the IRS will see the total amount of advanced payments they received.
And don’t forget that if you want to check the status of your refund, you may use the “Where’s My Refund” tracking tool provided by the IRS. However, this caveat: if you start to see vague messages on the tracking tool, it is likely due to processing delays. The IRS says if your return hasn’t been processed, you won’t find out what is causing the delay.
Cut Them A Break?
Due to the IRS’ backlog of over 35 million returns at the end of the 2021 filing season, millions of returns and amended returns still remain unprocessed today. Case receipts concerning original processing issues increased by 189%, while receipts concerning amended returns increased by 173%.
The IRS typically takes flak from tax filers of all ages. Whatever the reasons were in the past, this year, while having to deal with chronic staff shortages, it probably makes working there even tougher. In the first half of 2021, Treasury Department and IRS officials said it had fewer than 15,000 people to handle more than 240 million calls. The Washington Post pointed out that it translates into one person for every 16,000 calls received by the agency.