MADISON — Are you still waiting for your tax refund? You’re not alone.
Millions of Americans are stuck in an Internal Revenue Service backlog, and U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson wants answers.
The Oshkosh Republican this week sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig seeking information about the holdup. As of late May, the IRS had a paper backlog of 10.5 million individual returns and 7.4 million returns, according to the National Taxpayer Advocate’s annual report.
The delays come even as congress has pumped substantial additional funding in to the tax collection agency to improve processing operations.
Johnson said there have been no noticeable improvements in the backlog of tax returns or processing times.
After hearing from frustrated constituents about delays last year, Johnson sent a similar letter seeking information on IRS actions taken to improve tax return processing and customer service. In late August 2021, the IRS reported a backlog of 15.9 million returns, of which 6.9 million were paper returns and 9 million were returns suspended for additional processing.
As Politico reported, the latest report “contradicts the Biden administration’s repeated claims that it is catching up on the filings.”
Over the last year, refund delays on paper-filed returns have generally exceeded six months, with delays of 10 months or more common for many taxpayers, according to Erin Collins of the National Taxpayer Advocate. Pre-pandemic, Collins said, the IRS typically delivered refunds to paper filers within six weeks.
But with greater resources and lower COVID numbers, the agency can no longer use the pandemic as an excuse.
Still, the IRS wants more money. As Johnson notes in his letter, Rettig testified in May to the House Appropriations Committee that the IRS needed additional funding to improve processing operations. This despite a nearly $2.2 billion boost in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act and a generous omnibus bill.
“Had the IRS quickly used some of the $1.5 billion of additional fund provided by (ARPA), which was enacted 15 months ago, to hire and train additional employees, it could have worked through the backlog, answered more taxpayer telephone calls, and otherwise improved taxpayer service,” Collins wrote in the report.
Johnson wants the agency to provide current data on unprocessed tax returns, and he wants to know whether the IRS projects another backlog in 2023. He’s also seeking information on the agency’s ARPA fund balance and exactly where that money went to. The senator said he expects the IRS to respond by 5 p.m. Aug. 15.
“The IRS does not hesitate to penalize and fine taxpayers for late filings and payments, yet it does not hold itself accountable when it does not process taxpayers’ returns in a timely manner,” Johnson said. “This is not acceptable to Wisconsinites and all taxpayers,”