Tuesday, March 28

Taxpayers face overloaded IRS as filing season kicks off Monday

WASHINGTON — Count Ethan Miller, 30, among that subgroup of Americans who are really itching to file their taxes once income tax filing season begins Monday.

The financial planner who lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, hopes to claim the new deductions that will come with buying a home. He also wants to get ahead of a tax season that promises to bring a lot of additional headaches and delays for taxpayers this year.

“I’m trying to get as much of a head start on my taxes as I can,” Miller said, adding that he’s not too nervous about forecasts of additional delays because he’ll file online and won’t expect too big of a refund.

However, many other contributors may have more heartburn.

IRS worker shortages, a huge workload administering pandemic-related programs and stalled legislation that would have given the agency billions of dollars to process returns more expeditiously will combine to cause pain. to taxpayers this tax filing season.

“The IRS right now has unacceptable delays and the customer service that people are receiving is not what the American public deserves,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday. “The agency has not been equipped with the resources to adequately serve taxpayers in normal times, let alone during a pandemic.”

He stressed that the problems predate the Biden administration and urged understanding from beleaguered workers already saddled with huge backlogs. “It’s going to take some work, it’s going to take some time, and I think people need to understand that it needs financing,” Psaki said.

Agency officials are already warning taxpayers that “in many areas, we are unable to provide the amount of service and compliance that our taxpayers and our tax system deserve and need,” as IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said earlier in the day. of month

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Processing delays are expected, especially since the IRS says it’s still working on 2020 tax returns.

During the 2020 budget year, the IRS processed more than 240 million tax returns and issued approximately $736 billion in refunds, including $268 billion in stimulus payments, according to the latest IRS data. In that same time period, 59.5 million people called or visited an IRS office.

Donald Williamson, an accounting and tax professor at the American University in Washington, said he expects “weeks and weeks” of delays from the IRS in 2022.

“You can blame Congress or the IRS. I imagine they are trying to do the right thing, but it just adds to the complexity,” he said. “My advice in 2022 is to file early, start tomorrow, and try to prepare your taxes with a qualified professional.”

Williamson said he advises his clients to file their claims electronically, and those expecting large refunds in the tens of thousands should expect further delays. Most of the delinquent returns were filed on paper and are amended returns.

The deadlines to file have been extended in the last two years due to the pandemic. It’s unclear whether the agency will offer similar wiggle room to taxpayers this year.

There will be many new problems to navigate this year.

For example, people who are eligible to claim the child tax credit and have received advance payments throughout the year may get a lower refund than they would normally receive.

People who didn’t receive the stimulus checks they qualified for as part of the pandemic relief package could still claim a “recovery refund credit” on their taxes.

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On Thursday, the IRS released a “Top 5 Things to Remember” list, with tips for taxpayers on what documents to gather and what to do if their 2020 returns haven’t been processed yet.

The IRS anticipates that most taxpayers will receive their refund within 21 days of e-filing, barring problems with the processing of their return.

But plenty of pitfalls remain, in part due to staffing issues at the IRS.

Tony Reardon, president of the Treasury Employees National Union that represents IRS workers, said the agency “has a hard time recruiting because they’re up against Burger King or McDonald’s,” which offer similar wages without requiring workers to “treat with confusing rules and regulations.”

As of Thursday, the agency’s careers website listed at least 180 open positions, including clerks and tax examiners, with wages as low as $11 an hour. Of those, 42 stalls were open to the public; most were available only to internal applicants.

An expected $80 billion infusion for the agency was included in versions of President Joe Biden’s proposed package of social spending programs, but that stalled on Capitol Hill.

Reardon said the IRS “has a lot of issues in terms of how it can effectively carry out its mission and that needs to be rectified.”

“I clearly think the taxpayer gets the brunt of this,” he said, adding that IRS workers get “the brunt of that blame under horrible circumstances.”


Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani contributed to this report.


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