American taxpayers could be in for a “frustrating season” when it comes to filing their taxes this year due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and budget cuts to the IRS, Treasury Department officials warned on Monday.
The IRS will start accepting and processing 2021 returns on Jan. 24 and the filing deadline for most taxpayers will be April 18 rather than April 15 because of the Emancipation Day holiday in Washington, the agency announced on Monday. Taxpayers in Maine or Massachusetts have until April 19, due to the Patriots’ Day holiday in those states.
“Planning for the nation’s filing season process is a massive undertaking, and IRS teams have been working non-stop these past several months to prepare,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig in Monday’s news release. “The pandemic continues to create challenges, but the IRS reminds people there are important steps they can take to help ensure their tax return and refund don’t face processing delays,” Rettig said.
IRS officials are urging taxpayers to file their taxes electronically with direct deposit and avoid using a paper return. Officials called for “extra attention” for individuals who received an Economic Impact Payment or an advance Child Tax Credit in 2021. “People should make sure they report the correct amount on their tax return to avoid delays,” officials said.
But in a phone call with reporters on Tuesday, Treasury officials said they are predicting that the Internal Revenue Service will face “enormous challenges” during this year’s tax filing season, driven in part by years of budget cuts to the IRS and the substantial federal stimulus measures introduced throughout the pandemic, which have added to the tax agency’s already hefty workload, according to The Washington Post.
The IRS typically enters into filing season with a backlog of roughly 1 million unaddressed returns but this year is entering with what could be “several times” that amount, the Treasury official said.
As of Dec. 3, 2021, the IRS said it had processed nearly 169 million tax returns. According to its website, as of Dec. 23, 2021, it still had 6 million unprocessed individual returns.
A report conducted by the National Taxpayer Advocate, a watchdog group, in June 2021 (pdf) found that the IRS ended last year’s filing season with more than 35 million individual and business tax returns that had not been processed, in part due to delays in manual processing of returns, staffing issues, and IRS staff being unable to keep up with “the unprecedented volume of taxpayer telephone calls to the IRS’s toll-free lines” among other reasons.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw the United States enter multiple lockdowns, which consequently resulted in a number of in-person tax centers that would normally process paper forms being forced to close, adding extra pressure on the IRS, according to the Post.
GOP-led budget cuts to the IRS, which have led to a roughly 25 percent decrease in staff size are also creating challenges this year, while the unprecedented federal stimulus measures introduced to help keep Americans and the economy afloat during the pandemic have also magnified those existing challenges.
The Epoch Times has contacted the IRS for comment.
Treasury officials told reporters that there is currently no plan in place to extend the April 18 deadline for taxpayers to file their returns and encouraged them to do so early, according to the Post. They also urged individuals to make an IRS.gov account and file returns online.
“Despite valiant efforts by our employees handling a large portfolio and new responsibilities, we still are working through tax returns filed in 2021 and we are unable to answer an unprecedented number of telephone calls,” Rettig said in a statement on Jan. 7. “Simply put, in many areas we are unable to deliver the amount of service and enforcement that our taxpayers and tax system deserves and needs. This is frustrating for taxpayers, for IRS employees, and for me.”
“IRS employees want to do more, and we will continue in 2022 to do everything possible with the resources available to us. And we will continue to look for ways to improve. We want to deliver as much as possible while also protecting the health and safety of our employees and taxpayers. Additional resources would help our employees do more in 2022—and beyond,” Rettig said.