National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins recently issued a report to Congress saying that she was “deeply concerned about the upcoming filing season.” Collins added that the remaining unprocessed returns are from the “most challenging year taxpayers and tax professionals have ever experienced.”
Adding to the ongoing issues is the fact that the IRS is dealing with severe staffing shortages. In fact, compared to 2010, the agency has about 20,000 fewer employees and 20 percent less funding when adjusted for inflation, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Unfortunately, this all means that delays will be common for many who are waiting for their tax refunds. But, according to the AARP, there are six specific mistakes people need to avoid to receive their refunds quickly.
Filing a Paper Return
The IRS has already stated that most taxpayers who file a tax return with no errors should receive a refund within twenty-one days if they file electronically. “But filing a paper return will result in an ‘extended refund delay’ because of enormous challenges related to the pandemic, the IRS says,” the AARP notes.
Sign Your Return
“Sending in an unsigned paper return is like sending in no return at all. At that point, it’s not valid,” IRS spokesperson Eric Smith told the site. “We have to send it back to you for your signature. Then you have to send it back to us. So, unfortunately, it then becomes part of our paper backlog,” Smith added.
Make sure to take special care when reporting the third stimulus check and enhanced child tax credit payments.
“Incorrect entries when reporting these payments mean the IRS will need to further review the tax return, creating an extensive delay,” the agency wrote.
Too Much of a Head Start
Taxpayers filing before receiving all of their 1099 or W-2 forms could cause major math errors.
“The problem is that the IRS has already received all your 1099s and W-2s. So if you don’t include income from all your 1099s and W-2s on your return, your income will be lower than what the IRS has on file,” the AARP noted. “That will trigger an IRS CP2000 Notice, a letter telling you the income you reported on your return does not match what the IRS has on file.”
Incorrectly Claiming Dependents
A refund delay could be on tap “if you are claiming your children as dependents, make sure they are not claiming themselves on any return they file,” the AARP said. Also, couples who are divorced must make sure that only one parent is claiming any children as dependents.
Wrong IRS Processing Center
Lastly, if a taxpayer sends their return to the wrong IRS processing center, the agency “will need to forward your return to the correct processing center, delaying when the agency’s staff can begin working on your filing,” the AARP said.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.