However, some returns will need additional manual review, which will put them well beyond the three-week timeframe.
And for this particular tax season, as pointed out by personal finance expert Susan Tompor at the Detroit Free Press, the IRS has cautioned Americans not to rely on "receiving a refund by a certain date, especially when making major purchases or paying bills."
Enter Data Correctly
One of the leading causes for the delays seems to be from government-issued stimulus checks and credits and how they are reported on the returns. Even a minor typo can lead to painfully long delays.
"The IRS is seeing mistakes in claiming the recovery rebate credit once again this year—and the child tax credit—and continues to warn taxpayers of potential delays. It could take several weeks to resolve some of these issues," Tompor writes.
"It's possible that someone could forget that they received money last year, for example, and then try to claim the recovery rebate credit on the 2021 return," she continues.
If this occurs, Mark Steber, chief tax officer at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, told Tompor that the taxpayer who is due a refund should not take immediate action.
"No new tax return, no amended tax return, no paper filed tax return. The IRS is managing these," Steber said, adding that taxpayers should expect to wait six to 12 weeks for the agency to resolve this kind of error.
Steber said that if the taxpayer is still in line for a refund after correcting the error, the IRS will simply adjust the money due and send out the new refund amount. However, if the taxpayer owes money after the correction, they could potentially be on the hook for penalties and interest. In such cases, it could be better to amend the return and make the necessary payment before the April 18 deadline.
52 Million Refunds Sent Out
Despite the well-documented staffing and budget issues at the IRS, the agency has been sending out refunds at a pretty good clip this year. Through March 18, roughly 52 million people already have gotten their hands on refunds. And with the average refund being an impressive $3,305 so far—taxpayers are undoubtedly enjoying the 13 percent boost compared to last year's amounts.
Still, the IRS is working hard to clear its massive backlog of millions of unprocessed tax returns and correspondence from previous years. IRS commissioner Chuck Rettig recently told the House Ways and Means Committee that he expects the agency to make great headway by the end of this year.
"Barring any unforeseen circumstances, if the world stays as it is today, we will be what we call 'healthy' by the end of calendar year 2022, and enter the 2023 filing season with normal inventories," he 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.