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Still Waiting for a Tax Refund? The News Isn't Great

After 'unprecedented' tax season, IRS has backlog of 35M returns
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 2, 2021 8:39 AM CDT

(Newser) – If you're wondering why your tax refund still hasn't arrived, you're in good company. After the "most challenging filing season taxpayers, tax professionals, and the IRS have ever experienced," the agency is currently trying to work its way through a backlog of 35 million tax returns, which is 4 million more than it had weighing it down in May, reports CBS News. That daunting figure was posted Wednesday by National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins, the independent "voice of the taxpayer" within the IRS. In her latest report to Congress, Collins writes that this year's filing season "was the quintessential definition of a perfect storm," with the pandemic having a "significant" impact on IRS operations.

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Collins ties the holdups to several major challenges, including an "unprecedented" number of phone calls from taxpayers to the IRS for help, as well as having to push through three rounds of stimulus checks ordered by Congress. The manual processing of the 35 million returns includes ones flagged for discrepancies or errors, returns that have been amended, and some 15.2 million that are currently "in some stage of the normal processing stream." The agency's longtime staffing issues also played a role; it hemorrhaged 21,000 workers from 2010 to 2018 and staffing remains below where it was in 2010, per Yahoo Finance. At any rate, those still waiting will have to hold tight for a bit longer. "Until the IRS can manually work through the ... unprocessed tax returns, it will not be able to issue refunds to impacted taxpayers," Collins notes in her report. (Read more tax refunds stories.)

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