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Although our Texas Tax Day was delayed an entire month longer than the rest of the country, it has still been a chaotic mess for those needing answers from the IRS. The agency is backlogged so severely that help or swift refunds shouldn’t be expected anytime soon.

How dire is the situation? About 29 million tax returns were already held up for manual processing before the 2020 tax season arrived. That’s the population of Texas. Here are facts from Forbes, MarketWatch, and others to put the situation into perspective:

  • By the end of 2020, 8.3 million individual tax returns and transactions had yet to be processed from 2019. That’s a more than a 1,200% increase from a normal filing season.
  • How did the IRS get so far behind? The initial pandemic shutdown—with IRS offices and facilities closed—led to a pile of 20 million pieces of mail that sat unopened, including many hardcopy 2019 returns. Some won’t be processed until this summer.
  • Meanwhile, the extra task of sending three rounds of stimulus checks coincided with the strains of remote work challenges for IRS staff.
  • Then came the task of fielding questions on pandemic-related tax code changes. Calls to the IRS account management help line increased 300% this filing season, with only 7 in 100 calls being answered.
  • The situation is worse for individual taxpayers calling the 1040 help line. Only 2% of those calls are being answered.
  • One surprising factor behind the IRS backlog is a shortage of working printers and copiers. Due to a contractor complication, 42% of the printers and copiers used at IRS processing centers are either unusable or broken.
  • And now the IRS is facing a bigger staffing shortage than usual, just like many other employers around the country. By March 5, the IRS had 4,434 processing positions that were either vacant or filled by employees who were not working for various reasons.

If you need answers from the IRS, calling the main number may get you nowhere. Try a more specific, secondary number if you can. Better yet, talk to your tax preparer for tips and tricks. We have access to a separate set of IRS phone numbers exclusively for tax professionals. We also have experience working with local IRS offices, which may be able to respond faster. Do as much as you can online, including submitting tax forms and payments and connecting your bank account for direct deposit. For more tips, feel free to contact us

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