Millions of Americans Are Still Waiting for Their Tax Refunds, With a Growing Backlog at the IRS

Millions of American taxpayers are still waiting for their returns to be processed, according to a new report from a government watchdog agency, increasing an already massive backlog at the IRS.

The Government Accountability Office found that the backlog of returns has grown to 12.4 million returns still being processed as of September, an increase of 1.9 million returns from a year earlier. As a result, millions of Americans have seen delays in receiving their tax refunds, the agency said.

GAO’s findings come after three brutal tax filing seasons for many taxpayers million returns Caught in limbo as the pandemic poses a series of challenges for the IRS. The tax agency has hired thousands of new employees in hopes of being better prepared for the later 2023 tax filing season, although the IRS recently warned taxpayers not to expect any special information when filing their returns in early 2023. Don’t receive your refund by the date.

“The IRS cautions taxpayers not to count on receiving their 2022 federal tax refund by a certain date, especially when making large purchases or paying bills,” the agency said in a November statement. “Some returns may require additional review and may take longer.”

In 2022, the average tax refund is about $3,100 – more than most people’s typical paycheck. The delay in refunds could put a financial strain on families who were relying on the money to pay off loans, start an emergency fund or make a major purchase.

Tax season typically opens in late January, although the IRS has not yet announced the official start of the 2023 filing season. Many taxpayers plan to receive their refund within 21 days, although an IRS warning last month indicated that some Americans may need to wait longer.

Meanwhile, experts are warning taxpayers that their Refunds may be less in 2023 The pandemic led to the end of many tax benefits, such as the expanded child tax credit and federal stimulus checks.

The IRS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

answered some phone calls

The GAO’s findings echo a report published earlier this year by the National Taxpayer Advocate, an independent watchdog within the IRS, which found in June that the agency faced a crisis. Larger return backlog for the 2022 tax season compared to the previous year. The NTA said the delay created “unprecedented financial hardships” for taxpayers.

IRS has received New funding of $ 80 billion Through the Inflation Reduction Act, about half the money will be spent on upgrading technology and operations in an effort to avoid the delays experienced over the last three years. The rest of the money would be spent on enforcement, such as hiring auditors who can go after tax fraud.

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The GAO report said taxpayers struggled to get IRS employees on the phone in 2022, even though call volume was down compared to 2021.

“However, despite the small number of taxpayers calling the IRS for assistance, [customer service representatives] Fewer than one in five responded to calls during the 2022 filing season,” Gao said.

The GAO said the attrition rate among the agency’s return processing staff was about 16% in mid-June, more than double the IRS’s overall attrition rate. And about 1 in 5 new recruits leave the agency within two or three years.

“For every 10 new hired return processing staff, the IRS needs four additional employees,” the agency said.

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