The Rebound is WRTV’s initiative to help you get back on your feet amid this pandemic and hold our government accountable.
MARION — It’s officially tax season, and that means many of us are getting tax refunds in our pockets.
But for some Hoosiers, they’re still waiting on last year’s tax refund.
Several taxpayers reached out to WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney, and she’s finding out what’s causing the delay and how you can get your money.
Sarah Wilson’s mother Beulah Willis is 82 years old.
Beulah lives in Marion, is hard of hearing, and recently became a widow.
“My father passed away during this COVID crisis, love of my mother's life for 60 years so we were dealing with that during May, June, July,” said Sarah Wilson, daughter of Beulah.
Sarah said they’ve had added stress because her mother has still not received her 2019 tax refund, even though she sent the paper return via mail on March 10, 2020.
She is owed $725, the family said.
"My income was cut in half when my husband died,” said Willis. “$725 may not be a lot to a lot of people, but it is to me!"
Wilson and Willis said they’ve called the Internal Revenue Service numerous times, but have experienced long hold times.
When did reach a live person, they said they got no explanation for the delay or a date when they will get their money.
Plus they say IRS customer service was rude to them.
"She was nasty!” said Willis.
“To be treated poorly by someone like that when they owe her money, that really upset me,” said Wilson. “I'm not going to have my mother talked to like that.”
Wilson reached out to WRTV Investigates.
"I thought well you guys do this kind of thing so that's when I reached out to you,” said Wilson.
After WRTV Investigates started asking questions, Sarah Wilson said she was contacted by a tax advocate who informed her that her mother needs to file a Form 1310 because of the death of Beulah’s husband.
The tax advocate said Beulah’s 2019 tax return may have been flagged by the IRS for that issue, but until now, the family was unaware of any problems with their tax return.
They’re working to fix the problem and hoping to get their 2019 refund soon.
WRTV reached out to Fishers' tax attorney Julie Camden, who said she’s also experienced delays.
"It's horribly frustrating for people,” said Camden. “Normally you can count on 16 weeks for a paper return to process. But I've gotten returns out for more than 1 year that are not processed at this time."
WRTV checked with the IRS, and a spokesperson said as of January 29, 2021, they had 6.7 million individual tax returns in the processing pipeline.
“There's been a lot of changes to the IRS system, starting with the tax cuts and jobs act in 2018 and then stimulus payments in 2020 and all of these change require changes to the IRS system,” said Camden. “The more changes you have, the slower the cog is going to move.”
Another reason for delays with 2019 tax refunds — COVID-19 kept the IRS from fully staffing its mail facilities, which meant some paper returns spent months just sitting there.
“The IRS is now opening mail within normal timeframes,” read the IRS statement to WRTV. “The IRS has also made significant progress in processing prior year returns.”
Of the millions of unprocessed returns, the IRS says they may need to communicate with the taxpayer about issues like possible identity theft, document mismatches, unsigned returns, and incorrect calculations.
So, what can you do if you’re still waiting on your 2019 tax return to process?
"Other than responding to any requests for information promptly, there's no action you can take,” read the IRS statement to WRTV. “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."
Tax returns are opened in the order received, according to the agency.
Your best chance of getting your refund quickly this year is to file electronically, not by paper through the mail.
"If you owe money to the IRS you can reach out to a tax professional whether it's an attorney or an accountant and try to get them to process your returns through automated collections system so your accounts aren't levied or frozen for money,” said Camden.
You can also reach out to the Taxpayer Advocate Service at https://www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/.
The Internal Revenue Service is also working to improve its customer service.
A recent watchdog report showed, "In FY 2020, the IRS received more than 100 million calls on its toll-free telephone lines. IRS employees answered only about 24 million. Taxpayers who got through waited for an average of 18 minutes on hold."
"They’ve got to do better than that,” said Wilson. “We still don’t have any money, so it’s very frustrating.”
FULL STATEMENT FROM THE INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE
"The IRS is now opening mail within normal timeframes. The IRS has also made significant progress in processing prior year returns. As of January 29, 2021, we had 6.7 million individual tax returns in the processing pipeline*. For refunds that could not be issued in 2020 because the tax return is being corrected, reviewed or awaiting correspondence from a taxpayer, the refund will be issued as a paper check in 2021 per our normal processes. Taxpayers are encouraged to continue to check Where’s My Refund for their personalized refund status.
How long you may have to wait: It depends on where you sent your tax return and where it is in the process. We are processing returns we received over the summer due to the extended July 15 tax filing due date and, in some cases, are processing tax returns dated as early as July 15, 2020. 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, 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 IRS staff trained and working under social distancing requirements to complete the processing of your return.
What you should do: Other than responding to any requests for information promptly, there’s no action you can take. 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."
E-filing your 2020 tax return:
To e-file you will need to enter your AGI from your tax year 2019 tax return. If your 2019 return has not yet been processed, you may enter $ 0 (zero) as your prior year Adjusted Gross Income. If you used the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here tool last year to register for an Economic Impact Payment, enter “$1” as your prior year AGI. See Claiming the Recovery Rebate Credit if you aren’t required to file a tax return.