Pandemic closed IRS offices, but employees are back and trying to clear backlog of paper returns
“Yes, some paper returns filed early in the season have not yet been processed,” said IRS spokesman Eric Smith. “We have been hearing this from a number of folks and very much understand that people are concerned. We are continuing to whittle away at our paper inventory.”
The coronavirus-related chaos that has marred this year’s tax season should give people who still mail paper tax returns additional incentive to switch to electronic filing.
One reader, waiting on a $10,000 refund, said his tax preparer doesn’t like e-filing returns.
“Big mistake,” he emailed. “Next time will hope my accountant of 40 years will do electronic filing or just retire. We filed a paper federal return on February 25. We are due a large refund. I got my Maryland state tax refund promptly (paper return) and can’t tell if my federal return got lost in the mail. Stupid me, I did not send it certified. Or is it still sitting in a trailer waiting to be reviewed? I’m not sure if the IRS ‘penalizes’ someone due a refund of several thousand dollars if the return just never got to them.”
The agency began a phased reopening on June 1, with employees working to dig out from under a backlog of mail. “Even now, we’re still not at 100 percent staffing,” Smith said.
The IRS remains scaled back to comply with social distancing recommendations. Still, in the week ending July 10, the agency processed more than 4 million returns compared to the previous week.
At least if you’re getting a refund, your return gets priority treatment — whether your return arrived early in the year or during the typical spike around the filing deadline, which shifted to July 15 this year.
— Even without receipt proof, it’s very likely your return is in the backlog. But if you’re unsure, don’t file a second tax return or bother calling the IRS.
“We completely sympathize with your concern that the IRS may not have received your return, especially when it comes to refunds,” said Smith. “Right now, sending in a follow-up letter or another copy of the return won’t help, and in fact it will usually slow things down. It could take even longer to get your refund.”
As of July 10, the average refund was $2,762.
— Check the status of your refund by using the “Where’s My Refund?” tool at irs.gov/refunds or by calling 800-829-1954. But you don’t have to check multiple times a day. The refund portal is only updated once a day, usually overnight.
— If you’re due a refund, you’ll get the full amount. There’s no penalty assessed by the IRS even if the return is late. There is only a late-filing penalty if you owe.
— There is a decent bonus for your wait. If you filed your tax return before July 15, you’ll receive interest on your refund. The interest rate for the second quarter, which ended June 30, is 5 percent, compounded daily. After this date, the interest rate for the third quarter, ending Sept. 30, drops to 3 percent.
And, in case you’re wondering, yes, the interest is considered taxable income.