For weeks, millions of American taxpayers have been warned to brace for a potentially disastrous tax season due to the Internal Revenue Service’s unprocessed returns, unanswered correspondence, and staffing shortages.
And a couple of weeks into the brand-new tax season, many Americans are still trying to get their tax refunds from last year—not to mention some might already be waiting for this year’s refunds as well.
One such individual is thirty-nine-year-old Kathie Kong of California, a healthcare worker and single mother of five who is still trying to get her 2020 tax refund that should amount to approximately $5,000. Making matters worse is the fact that without a return, she hasn’t been able to receive any money from the enhanced child tax credits that were sent out from July to December.
“I pay for childcare just to go to work. It’s been hard because the money that I make is not that much and childcare is expensive,” Kong told Business Insider.
She later added that getting her hands on those funds would mean that she wouldn't “have to worry about how I’m going to pay for childcare this month.”
However, such unfortunate situations shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise considering that the IRS is currently dealing with a massive backlog of 6 million unprocessed individual returns and 2.3 million unprocessed amended individual returns.
In a recent report to Congress, National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins noted that she is “deeply concerned about the upcoming filing season.” The remaining tax returns are from the “most challenging year taxpayers and tax professionals have ever experienced,” she continued, adding that the processing delays could be “as bad, and potentially worse” this year.
Furthermore, speaking to a House committee earlier this week, Collins again acknowledged that taking care of the backlog should be the number one priority.
Per CBS News, filing a paper return, she said, remains “at the heart of the agency's challenges and processing tax returns.” But with more than three million returns that must be manually scanned, transcribed, and processed, paper returns have become the tax agency’s “kryptonite.”
In an effort to help ease the backlogs, IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig has made the decision to temporarily reassign about 1,200 employees.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck situation to help people as quickly as possible and reduce the stress on employees who have been and continue to face unprecedented levels of inventory to be worked,” he wrote in an email to employees.
However, a recent effort to hire 5,000 positions to assist the agency with the tax filing season wasn’t even able to draw 200 applicants.
“I do not think we’re going to be able to hire enough people to get us out of this hole,” Collins 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.