When you need the money, waiting for your tax refund can feel a bit like "Waiting for Godot," but this year the wait may seem even longer. Like so many businesses and organizations, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has had to adapt and that means longer waits to get your money.
"The IRS has reported it typically takes twenty-one days to process a refund," explained Dr. Brian A. Marks, J.D., Ph.D., Executive director for the entrepreneurship and innovation program at the University of New Haven.
Marks explained the twenty-one days is of course if everything is done correctly. It is recommended that you double check your work before filing. Common mistakes can commonly result in delays. And if you filed a paper return, that can take longer than if you filed electronically.
However, there are other reasons why that refund check may not be in the mail yet.
"Under normal circumstances, delays could be the result of errors in the returns, incompleteness, system identification of potential identity theft and a certain degree of manual processing," added Dr. Marks.
Even those with direct deposit could be facing delays. It was reported last month that some Americans have found incorrect banking information on the IRS "Get My Payment" tool website, which resulted in stimulus checks being sent to the wrong account. The same has been happening with refunds.
The Covid Tax Season
There are also several other factors that have come into play this tax season, all of which are slowing tax refund payments. One factor is that the multiple relief packages have impacted the tax code.
"Given our Covid-19 pandemic world along with significant fiscal measures in the Covid-19 relief packages impacting and requiring changes in the tax code, it is no surprise there are delays in refund processing," said Dr. Marks.
"The IRS has had to confront, as other institutions – governmental and non-governmental alike – a pandemic adjusted work environment, e.g., labor shortages, remote work," he noted.
Such adjustments only further "compound and delay the design and development of complex information technology and system changes," said Dr. Marks.
At the same time, there have been enhanced security measures all of which have impacted the processing of returns. The IRS has also been struggling as it faces staffing issues, and is dealing with an outdated IT system.
According to the National Taxpayer Advocate, the IRS has been holding roughly 29 million returns for manual processing. It says the $900 billion stimulus package that former President Donald Trump signed into law in December did not give the IRS enough time to get ready for some of the tax code changes.
The IRS and tax experts alike have recommended that if you don't receive a check in the normal twenty-one days, to be patient this year. Don't file a second return and don't call the IRS. As the IRS noted on its website, "We are processing all mail in the order we received it."
Peter Suciu 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 Amazon.com.