“Where’s My Refund?”

If you’ve been waiting months for your tax refund, you’re not alone.

Many people who filed paper tax returns — and even some who filed electronically, but whose returns were flagged because of problems — have yet to see their money. Some are growing desperate, since they rely on refunds to pay bills or cover medical care.

Few can get through to anyone who can help. The IRS closed its processing centers, local offices and taxpayer help lines because of COVID-19 lockdowns, prioritizing the stimulus payments authorized by the CARES Act.

As I wrote in a previous post, taxpayers are reaping what their lawmakers have sowed:

“Over the last decade, Congress has cut the IRS’ budget by more than 20% after factoring in inflation, even as the population grew and tax law got ever more complicated. The agency was limping along with ancient technology and too few people to help the public even before the pandemic sent most of its workers home, without the ability to telecommute.

The agency has been trying to recall its workforce as quickly as it can, but there is a truly massive backlog of paper returns that has yet to be processed. Sending out stimulus relief checks has taken priority, and that Herculean effort is still in process.”

Processing centers in Kentucky, Texas and Utah opened this week. Re-openings are planned for June 15 in Georgia, Missouri, Michigan and Tennessee. Processing centers are scheduled to open June 29 in Indiana, Ohio, California, Puerto Rico and Oregon.

It’s unclear how long it will take employees to clear the massive backlog they’re facing. NerdWallet has some suggestions for workarounds, including contacting the Taxpayer Advocate Service, although that service is overwhelmed as well.

Please don’t re-file your tax return, as that won’t help and makes the backlog worse. If you’re still working, consider adjusting your withholding to increase your paycheck. (It’s far better to keep your own money than to make an interest-free loan to the government, which has no obligation to pay you back in a timely manner.) If you’re struggling, you may be able to find food banks,  and other resources to help you at 211.org.

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  1. Rosette-Andre Gindi says

    Dear Liz,
    I filed 2019 Income Tax Returns electronically.
    I have received Federal and State refunds.
    No Stimulus Cheque todate. Received a form letter, “Your Economic Impact Payment Has Arrived”, that provided, in part, “..you are receiving an Economic Impact Payment of $1,200 by check/debit card.” Nothing enclosed, just the form letter.
    Questions, please:
    a) If I do not receive a stimulus cheque, can I claim the $1,200 on my 2020 Income Tax Return?
    b) I have not searched status of the stimulus payment on IRS’ Get My Payment. There are no logins! I don’t get it.
    I’d have to enter SSN, DOB, home address, all this personal information right off.

    Educate me please, dear Liz. Thank you for the options provided in your recent email. Just, if you would be so kind, give me feedback on my two inquiries above, please.

    And thank you very much,

    • Liz Weston says

      I’ve heard of people accidentally throwing away their stimulus payment because it came as a prepaid debit card in a white envelope marked “Money Network Cardholder Services.” In other words, it looked like junk mail. I haven’t seen guidance about what to do if that happened to you, but that will probably come. And yes, you have to enter your Social Security number and other data on the IRS site to track your refund status.