IRS Backlog May Lead to Major Delays – Here’s What to Know

March 23, 2022
Files on a shelf caught in the IRS backlog

If you’re still in waiting in the IRS backlog for them to process your tax return from last year, you’re not alone. Tens of millions of Americans are still waiting on their returns — some folks have been waiting for nearly a year! 

Delayed processing means delayed refunds, which can cause a lot of headaches and stress for individuals, families, and businesses that rely on their refunds to fill the gaps and pay for necessary expenses and bills. It remains to be seen how long it will take the IRS to overcome its massive backlog and how it will fare this tax season as people and businesses submit their returns for 2021. 

Here’s what you need to know about the IRS backlog and potential tax refund delays.

What’s causing the IRS backlog?

It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic hit businesses hard, and government agencies were no exception. Additional duties stemming from emergency pandemic relief programs exacerbated an already-stretched agency that has faced severe budget cuts, office closures, and stagnant hiring. 

According to the National Taxpayer Advocate, the IRS customer service center received nearly 282 million telephone calls last year — only 11% of which were answered.

However, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig assured the House Ways and Means Committee that the IRS backlog is expected to be resolved by December of this year. The agency recently unveiled a strategic plan to handle the backlog, including hiring 10,000 new workers, reassigning current employees to help process tax returns, and paying overtime. 

How Long Will the IRS Backlog Delay My Tax Refund? 

Even with the unprecedented IRS backlog, the IRS says taxpayers who file electronically and opt-in for direct deposit can expect to see their refunds issued within three weeks of submitting their return. Depending on your bank, the direct deposit can take up to an additional five days to clear. 

If you choose to submit a paper tax return, your refund will take approximately six to eight weeks from the date you submit your return to the IRS. 

However, keep in mind that these windows of delivery are not guaranteed. Other factors can affect your refund.

Other Factors That Can Delay a Tax Refund

On top of the massive backlog the IRS is facing, some other factors could contribute to a delayed tax refund:

  • Errors on your tax return, such as an incorrect Social Security Number or Employer Identification Number
  • Failure to report a name change to the Social Security Administration 
  • Filing a paper return 
  • An incomplete return
  • Your tax filing raises suspicions of identity theft or fraud
  • Not opting into direct deposit 
  • Your return includes Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation, which can take up to an additional 14 weeks to process 
  • You filed for the earned income tax credit or additional child tax credit 
  • Something in your return flags a need for further review 
  • You submitted an amended tax return, which can take over 20 weeks for the IRS to process and issue a refund 

How to Track Your Tax Refund

Wondering how you can keep tabs on your refund? There’s an app for that. With the help of IRS2Go, you can check the status of your refund online from your mobile device. You can also make payments on your tax bill via the app. 

Or, you can use the “Where’s My Refund?” online portal. Both of these tools provide daily updates once 24 hours have passed from the date of an e-file submission. If you submitted a paper return, it will take up to four weeks to update your refund progress. 

How to Decrease the Wait Time for Your Tax Refund

While the status of your tax refund is not totally in your control, you can help expedite the process and get your refund in a more timely manner by doing the following: 

  1. File electronically 
  2. Use direct deposit 
  3. File early rather than waiting till the last minute on April 18 
  4. Respond quickly if the IRS contacts you by mail or requests more information to verify a return 

Lastly, one of the most important things you can do when submitting your tax return is to ensure it’s completely filled out with zero errors. When the IRS spots errors, missing information, or unclear details, they reach out to you and then wait for your response, which could add days or even weeks to your wait time. 

Working with a tax professional helps ensure that your tax return is filed correctly, on time, and includes all necessary information. At 1-800Accountant, we make sure you get the most out of your return with personal tax prep and filing — accuracy guaranteed, always. No matter how complex your tax situation is, we’re here to help. Schedule a free consultation with one of our expert accountants today. 

This post is to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, business, or tax advice. Each person should consult his or her own attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in this post. 1-800Accountant assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.