If you don’t want your 2021 tax returns delayed for some ridiculous amount of time, the Internal Revenue Service has one request: file things electronically. Please.
That’s one of the core takeaways from today’s IRS announcement about the impending tax season kicking off on January 24th. The agency, which is still in the process of combing through millions of returns from last year, urged taxpayers to file their forms electronically with their direct deposit information included. Moves like filing a printed return or asking for your refund to be sent via paper check don’t only pile the IRS’s unfathomable workload even higher—it also means your refund gets delayed until... well, until the IRS can handle it.
“In many areas, we are unable to deliver the amount of service and enforcement that our taxpayers and tax system deserves and needs,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement. “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.”
If you have questions about your tax situation this year (which, let’s be honest, who wouldn’t), the IRS politely pleaded for people to use online resources, instead of calling the agency. People are having a tougher and tougher time getting on the phone with anyone from the agency, largely because of the unprecedented number of questions about COVID-era tax changes. And there are plenty of changes to be calling about. Rettig said that over last year’s tax season, the agency received more than 145 million calls—more than four times the number of calls received in an average year.
This year, the agency expects more than 160 million individual returns to be filed, with the bulk coming well before the traditional tax deadline in April. Ideally, the IRS says it anticipates taxpayers will get their refunds deposited within three weeks of filing electronically, assuming there are no issues with their particular return.
But just to be safe, it might be worth assuming there’s going to be some issue handling your taxes this year. In a phone call with reporters regarding the IRS’s announcement on Monday, treasury officials said they anticipated a “frustrating season” ahead. The ongoing pandemic has winnowed a good chunk of the IRS’s personnel, while also forcing the agency to shutter several offsite centers where countless claims get processed. On top of that, the IRS is still reeling with budget cuts implemented under the Trump administration, while also being tasked with juggling newer programs like the Child Tax Credit with whatever resources it can scrap together.
This is all to say that the IRS is a hot mess. There are millions of unprocessed tax returns, countless unanswered calls, and lord knows what else happening inside those walls. So it might be worthwhile to listen to the IRS’s advice here: file early, file electronically, and grab a digital guide to tax filing instead of straining the IRS’s phone lines.