How Does the Backlog Affect Taxpayers?
The IRS’ delay in working through the mountain of paper tax returns leads Collins’ list of concerns. At the end of May, over 21 million paper tax returns had yet to be processed by the IRS—up by 1.3 million from the same time last year. While diplomatic, Collins is clearly concerned about the trend this reflects.
“The IRS has said it is aiming to crush the backlogged inventory this year, and I hope it succeeds,” she writes. “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.”
The fact that most individual taxpayers get some level of refund is an indicator of how widespread the effects of the backlog can be. Besides delays in processing returns, taxpayers this year have also faced delays in processing correspondence to the IRS, and difficulties in reaching the agency by phone.
“At the end of the day, a typical taxpayer cares most about receiving his or her refund timely,” Collins explains. “Particularly for lower-income taxpayers who receive Earned Income Tax Credit benefits, tax refunds may constitute a significant percentage of their household income for the year. Thus, these processing delays are creating unprecedented financial difficulties for millions of taxpayers and outright hardships for many.”
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