IRS responds to Hoosier concerns about delays and backlogs

Internal Revenue Service provides insight on problems
Posted at 6:00 AM, Nov 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-30 07:56:46-05

The Rebound Indiana is WRTV’s initiative to help Indiana families get back on their feet amid this pandemic.

INDIANAPOLIS — Many Hoosiers have complained about problems involving the IRS — not being able to get through on the phone, delays in getting federal stimulus checks and tax refunds, receiving stimulus payments for deceased relatives, as well as scams.

For the first time, WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney was able to take your questions and concerns directly to the Internal Revenue Service in an on-camera interview.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the IRS shut down call centers and paper processing centers which created a backlog, leaving many Hoosiers frustrated.

Doretta New, of Indianapolis, filed her taxes via mail on March 11.

She waited to get her federal tax refund and her stimulus check and couldn’t get a hold of a live person at the IRS.

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"I don't even know if they have it,” New said back in May. “Should I re-mail a copy of it? How long am I going to have to wait? Are they not working?"

New’s paper tax return was likely stuck sitting at a processing center that was shut down because of the pandemic.

She finally got her tax refund and stimulus check in June.

WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney: Are those wait times acceptable?

IRS spokesperson Luis Garcia: Remember most people, over 160 million Americans received their economic impact payment either through direct deposit, debit card or a check. Most of it was done quickly via direct deposit over the course of a couple weeks. That's a monumental effort we were able to accomplish.

WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney: Some people have not been able to get through. What is being done to address that.

IRS spokesperson Luis Garcia: We do have a backlog. We've been working through it. But remember we are at limited capacity in terms of what we can physically do. The call centers, the big mail centers are not at their capacity like we'd like them to be, but we are adhering to the laws in the states that we operate. We have as many people working from home as possible.

WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney: What should you do if you haven’t received your stimulus check?

IRS spokesperson Luis Garcia: “When you file your taxes next year — you can get the payment at that point. The only difference is, it will be based on your 2020 tax status.”

WRTV Investigates found some Hoosiers received stimulus checks for their deceased family members, like J. Tilden in Beech Grove.

“So, I was surprised and immediately thought about how this was potentially something that was fraud,” Tilden said.

An independent watchdog report found the Treasury and IRS sent almost 1.1 million payments totaling nearly $1.4 billion to deceased individuals.

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WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney: Has this been rectified?

IRS spokesperson Luis Garcia: Well, remember some people when they receive checks for someone who is deceased — that deceased person or their estate I should say is legitimately eligible for that payment."

WRTV Investigates has also warned you about scams in which criminals pose as the IRS, usually via phone or text message.

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WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney: How can people protect themselves from these scams?

IRS spokesperson Luis Garcia: Be very careful. Remember the IRS isn't going to text you or send you a direct message via social media. IRS is never going to send you an unsolicited email or text that says you have to do something to get your money. The IRS is never going to demand immediate payment. That is just never going to happen. And the final red flag is we are never going to tell you you have to pay by this particular method such as gift cards.

As of now, Congress has not approved a second round of stimulus checks, so if you see a text or an email promising you money — delete it, it’s a scam.

The IRS will typically send you a letter in the mail if they need to communicate with you.

The federal agency has added more than 3,500 phone operators to help answer calls, but before you call, the IRS encourages you to try first.

“If you call us, please be patient,” Garcia said. “Understand we aren't working anywhere near the capacity where we want to be. We would love to be the sort of agency that picks up on the first ring. Unfortunately, we aren't able to do that at this time."