National Taxpayer Advocate Erin M. Collins today released her statutorily mandated mid-year report to Congress. The report expresses concern about continuing delays in the processing of paper-filed tax returns and the consequent impact on taxpayer refunds. At the end of May, the agency had a backlog of 21.3 million unprocessed paper tax returns, an increase of 1.3 million over the same time last year.
“The IRS has said it is aiming to crush the backlogged inventory this year, and I hope it succeeds,” Collins wrote.
“Unfortunately, At This Point The Backlog Is Still Crushing
The IRS, Its Employees, And Most Importantly, Taxpayers.
As Such, The Agency Is Continuing To Explore
Additional Processing Strategies.”
More than 90% of individual income taxpayers e-file their returns, yet last year, about 17 million taxpayers filed their returns on paper. Some choose to file on paper. Some have no choice because they encounter e-filing barriers, such as when they are required to file a tax form or schedule the IRS cannot accept electronically. Before the pandemic, the IRS typically delivered refunds to paper-filers within four to six weeks. Over the past year, refund delays on paper-filed returns have generally exceeded six months, with delays of 10 months or more common for many taxpayers.
Forms 1040 are just one component of the paper tax returns processing backlog. Millions of business tax returns and amended tax returns (both individual and business) are also filed on paper. The overall backlog has increased by 7% over the past year as shown in the Figure 1.
Figure 1: Status of Unprocessed Paper Tax Returns Comparing Weeks Ending May 22, 2021, and May 27, 2022
The IRS Has Publicly Committed To Reducing Its
Paper Tax Return Backlog To A “Healthy” Level
By The End Of The Year, But It Has Not Provided
A Definition Of “Healthy.”
“Historically, the IRS has paid refunds resulting from paper-filed returns within four to six weeks,” Collins wrote. “From a taxpayer perspective, returning to a four-to-six-week refund delivery period is a reasonable definition of ‘healthy.’”
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