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Indiana taxpayers frustrated with refund delays

Many waiting months for returns filed in 2020
Steven Gilliatte and his wife Sara of Indianapolis have been waiting on their tax refund since February.
Posted at 10:33 AM, May 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-28 19:53:38-04

INDIANAPOLIS — If you’re still waiting for this year’s tax refund, you are not alone.

Many taxpayers in Indiana say they’ve waited well beyond the three weeks it should take to their money electronically.

WRTV Investigates is digging into why the Internal Revenue Service still hasn’t processed millions of tax returns from 2019 and 2020.

Steven and Sara Gilliatte of Indianapolis are retired.

“She gets social security disability,” said Gilliatte. “We aren't starving but we have to budget everything."

They filed their taxes electronically on February 22 and expected their $8,690 refund within three weeks.

The IRS website shows his “tax return is still being processed. A refund date will be provided when available.”

"We still haven't heard anything,” said Gilliatte. “I get on the government website which is what they tell you to do and it just keeps saying it's in process."

The Gilliattes are counting on the refund to help pay off an unexpected roof repair.

“It's money we had counted on in our budget. We're not starving. But it's frustrating. I can't get any answers,” said Gilliatte.

Gilliatte is not alone.

WRTV Investigates found post after post on social media from Indiana taxpayers experiencing similar delays.

“We filed our tax return in early March,” posted one man in Brownsburg. “Here it is the end of May and still no refund. Checked the IRS website. Still ‘processing.’”

Gilliatte said adding to the frustration, he couldn’t get through to the IRS on the phone—so he contacted WRTV Investigates.

"Kara, just the fact that you're trying to help is great because there is no help!” said Gilliatte. “When you're dealing with the government there isn't any help. What do you do?"

There’s not much you can do, according to Fishers' tax attorney Julie Camden.

"The problem is many people are turning around and trying to file a return a second time,” said Camden. “Some electronically and by paper. I would ask people to please not do that, because that's prolonging the problem because they have to find out they have a duplicate return when they could be using that time to process another return."

So, what’s causing the delays?

According to the Taxpayer Advocate Service, it’s a combination of the high volume of 2020 tax returns requiring manual processing, the backlog of unprocessed 2019 paper tax returns, congressional mandates to issue stimulus payments and provide other relief to taxpayers during the pandemic, limited resources, and technology issues.

“The IRS is now holding over 29 million returns for manual processing,” the Taxpayer Advocate said in a blog post. “As one would expect, IRS employees are stretched thin working through the manual processing of these returns, so if a taxpayer’s return is pulled for manual processing, there will be delays.”

The IRS says you may see a delay if your return:

  • Includes errors
  • Is incomplete
  • Is affected by identity theft or fraud
  • Includes a claim filed for an Earned Income Tax Credit or an Additional Child Tax Credit. See Q&A below.
  • Includes a Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation, which could take up to 14 weeks to process
  • Needs further review in general
  • Includes errors
  • Is incomplete
  • Is affected by identity theft or fraud
  • Includes a claim filed for an Earned Income Tax Credit or an Additional Child Tax Credit. See Q&A below.
  • Includes a Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation, which could take up to 14 weeks to process
  • Needs further review in general

"We're working hard to get through the backlog. Please don't file a second tax return or contact the IRS about the status of your return,” the IRS said in a statement to WRTV Investigates.

Steven Gilliatte said the waiting game is difficult.

"It doesn't make any sense,” said Gilliatte. “It's just me my wife and retirement and social security. It's pretty simple."

Fishers tax attorney Julie Camden said she’s seeing taxpayers with simple returns and complicated returns impacted by the delays.

"How complicated a return is has nothing to do with the order in which the IRS is processing the returns,” said Camden. “It’s a very common problem right now.”

Federal law prohibits the IRS from discussing the Gilliattes account with us, but we’ve asked the IRS to help the family.

It's not clear how much longer Indiana taxpayers will have to wait.

The IRS says if they need more information, they will write you a letter.

The resolution of these issues depends on how quickly and accurately you respond, and the ability of IRS staff trained and working under social distancing requirements to complete the processing of your return,” said the IRS in a statement.

FULL IRS STATEMENT:
The IRS is now opening mail within normal timeframes. The IRS has also made significant progress in processing prior year returns. As of May 15, 2021, we had 300,000 individual tax returns received prior to 2021 in the processing pipeline. Including current year returns, as of May 15, 2021, we had 16.4 million unprocessed individual returns in the pipeline. Unprocessed returns include those requiring correction [irs.gov] to the Recovery Rebate Credit amount or validation of 2019 income used to figure the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC). This work does not require us to correspond with taxpayers but does require special handling by an IRS employee so, in these instances, it is taking the IRS more than 21 days to issue any related refund. If, as a result, a correction is made to any RRC, EITC or ACTC claimed on the return, the IRS will send taxpayers an explanation. Taxpayers are encouraged to continue to check Where’s My Refund? [irs.gov] for their personalized refund status and can review Tax Season Refund Frequently Asked Questions [irs.gov].

How long you may have to wait: The IRS understands the importance of timely processing of tax returns and refund issuance. We are processing returns received over the summer and fall in 2020 due to the extended July 15, 2020 tax filing due date. While the majority of 2019 refund returns have been processed, in some cases, we are processing tax returns that were mailed with a payment even though payment associated with these returns have been processed by the IRS. However, we are rerouting tax returns and taxpayer correspondence from locations that are behind to locations where more staff is available, and we are taking other actions to minimize any delays. Tax returns are opened in the order received. As the return is processed, it may be delayed because it has a mistake including errors concerning the Recovery Rebate Credit, is missing information, or there is suspected identity theft or fraud. If we can fix it without contacting you, we will. If we need more information or need you to verify that it was you who sent the tax return, we will write you a letter. The resolution of these issues depends on how quickly and accurately you respond, and the ability of IRS staff trained and working under social distancing requirements to complete the processing of your return.

What you should do: If you filed electronically and received an acknowledgement, you do not need to take any further action other than promptly responding to any requests for information. If you filed on paper, check Where’s my refund? If it tells you we have received your return or are processing or reviewing it, we are processing your return, but it may be under review. We’re working hard to get through the backlog. Please don’t file a second tax return or contact the IRS about the status of your return.

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