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Why Your Tax Refund This Year Might Be Really Late

Tax Refund
1040 Form. Imaged Credit: Creative Commons.

Tax Refunds Could Be Delayed This Year: Annually, about three in four Americans will receive a tax refund, but this year many of those tax filers will have to wait a bit longer than usual for their refund to arrive. As we head in to the 2022 tax-filing season, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is now grappling with a backlog of millions of unprocessed returns from one of the “most challenging years” in the agency’s history.

National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins warned in a newly released report that taxpayers could face “even longer delays” for their tax refunds than last year.

“There is no way to sugarcoat the year 2021 in tax administration: from the perspective of tens of millions of taxpayers, it was horrendous,” wrote Collins, who leads the independent watchdog organization within the IRS. She stated that the processing delays could be at least as bad as last year and likely could be even worse.

One issue is the massive backlog of unprocessed returns that accrued during the pandemic, reported.

The agency is essentially drowning in paper.

According to Collins, the IRS had a backlog of more than 8.6 million unprocessed individual income tax returns and 2.8 million business returns as of mid-December. In addition, the IRS had almost 5 million pieces of unanswered mail. In a “normal year,” the IRS typically enters the new tax-filing season with fewer than one million remaining items to address.

A multitude of other factors has contributed to the IRS backlog, including complications related to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, staffing issues and notably legislative changes. In addition to an aging workforce, the IRS has some of the oldest continuously running IT systems in government, with some of its core computing systems turning 60 years old, Federal News Network reported.

Too Complex?

Recent changes including the inclusion of monthly child tax credit payments and stimulus payments last year could present new challenges for tax filers. Trying to get answers will only contribute to the bottleneck at the IRS.

“Paper is the IRS’s Kryptonite, and the agency is still buried in it,” Collins wrote. Trying to call the IRS for answers to filing questions has been no easier, and Collins added that telephone service last year was “the worst it has ever been,” and warned that only about 11 percent of callers were able to get through to a customer service representative. The average wait time for those successful calls was 23 minutes.

Things weren’t much better online. The “Where’s My Refund?” tool was unable to provide much information regarding unprocessed returns or explain reasons for delays.

File Early to Get Your Tax Refund 

The best advice for those who want to see their tax refund sooner than later is to get their taxes filed as soon as possible. If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to begin preparing for tax season. The IRS will start accepting and processing 2021 tax returns on January 24, two weeks earlier than a year ago.

And despite the fact that refunds will likely be delayed, the IRS deadline remains essentially the same. However, because the Good Friday holiday and Washington D.C.’s Emancipation Day both fall on April 15 this year – the normal deadline – taxpayers will have until Monday, April 18 to file their returns or to request an extension through October 17.

Peter Suciu, a Contributing Writer for Forbes, is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.