Still Waiting on Your Tax Return? Blame an Understaffed IRS

Still Waiting on Your Tax Return? Blame an Understaffed IRS

The IRS continues to struggle with budget and staffing issues.

The Tax Day deadline of April 18 has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean that the work at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) gets any easier; The IRS’ staffing has shrunk to about 80,000—the same level seen roughly fifty years ago, largley as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic setbacks and budget cuts.

According to the agency’s latest data release, the IRS has so far issued roughly 70 million tax refunds worth more than $222 billion. Broken down, the average refund comes in at $3,175, which is up a hefty 9.9 percent compared to last year.

In total, the beleaguered agency has received 103.3 million tax returns and has processed nearly 100 million of them—a highly impressive feat considering that it entered this tax season with millions of unprocessed personal returns and correspondence.

However, it’s no secret that millions of other taxpayers are still waiting for their refunds to land in their bank account. In an effort to speed up the processing of the remaining returns, the IRS has committed to hiring 10,000 workers. But it appears that they won't be in place for this particular hectic tax season.

“I would say we need thousands more employees still coming to join us,” Ken Corbin, the IRS' chief taxpayer experience officer, told CBS News. “We are an aging workforce and we know that we have to prepare for the future.”

CBS’ Congressional correspondent Scott McFarlane noted that taxpayers who still file paper returns are slowing down the process even more. “We found about 2 million people from New York, about 1 million or 2 million people from New Jersey, and half a million from Connecticut still file the old fashion way on paper, and paper is the IRS' Kryptonite,” he said.

“They have the same number of processors to handle the paper and handle the phone and so they are juggling both the phone calls and the paper,” he continued, adding that “they are starting the tax year with 3 million tax returns to finish from last year and then the tidal wave comes this year.”

Meanwhile, as reported by Fox Business, millions of frustrated taxpayers reported outages on the IRS’ website on Tax Day, further hindering their efforts to file their taxes on time. Several users acknowledged that they received a message on the site that said: “We are unable to complete your request due to technical difficulties.” Others reported not being able to log in to the site at all and some received error messages when they tried to make payments for estimated taxes.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Finance 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.

Image: Reuters