Tax Refund 2021: Tips on how to avoid delays as pandemic continues to impact IRS

CHICAGO (WLS) -- You may still be waiting on your federal refund from last year and experts say it could be an issue this year as well.

The I-Team has been fielding calls about federal tax refund delays since 2020 when the pandemic began, and IRS workers were stuck at home. Consumers said they are still waiting for their money.

"They dropped the ball on me," said Melody Reeder of Mt. Prospect, who is retired and recently widowed. She's been impatiently waiting for her $2,500 IRS refund for 10 months. "If we owe the IRS, they'd be hounding us for our money; but if they owe us, you just gotta wait and you keep waiting."

Reeder is far from alone. A recent report by the National Taxpayer Advocate found that tens of millions of taxpayers saw delays in the processing of their returns last year.

The IRS and Treasury Department issued a warning of more delays this year due to staffing shortages.

"The IRS has stated that they have a huge backlog of tax returns, so they have been tremendously delayed," said Kemberley Washington, a former IRS revenue agent and IRS criminal investigator.

Washington is now a tax expert at Forbes Advisor.

"For a person who's waiting on a tax refunds, the best thing they can do is continue to check with the IRS. They can also use a tool what's called Where's My Refund, they can put in information and just determine where their tax refund is in process at this time," she said.

Reeder said she checks the IRS's Where's My Refund page every few days.

"It says 'We'll notify you if there has been any changes', that has been on my site since after 21 days," she said.

If you are in a similar spot, Washington warned that you should not refile the same tax return.

"That's something that you do not want to do. You want to make certain that you just wait. Give the IRS a chance to process your tax return because ours is saying please do not do this," she explained.

So what can you do to avoid delays for taxes you file in 2022?

"Number one, file early make sure that you file," she said. "Number two, electronically, that's the fastest way to receive your process your tax return. And the third thing is make sure that you use direct deposit so that the money can come faster into your bank account."

You also may have more luck if you use an accountant or tax preparer. If you can't afford one you could qualify for personal tax assistance through the IRS's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program.

"Make sure that you provide correct information so that you will not be exposed to any additional delays," Washington added. "For instance, if you put incorrect information on your tax return and IRS needs more information that can cause more delays."

The I-Team alerted the IRS about Reeder's delay. The IRS said it can't comment on specific consumer cases but overall said it is important for consumers to file electronically using direct deposit, make sure your returns are accurate and use a tax professional.

Reeder said she desperately needs her refund and has no idea how much longer she'll be waiting.

"When are they going to come up with the money," she wondered.
Experts say the expanded child tax credit could be causing confusion and adding to delays so make sure that information is in order, and accurate.

This year's tax filing season starts on Monday, earlier than usual, so take advantage and file this month.

For more information:
Tax Payer Advocate: Reasons why some refunds are delayed:
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