IRS struggling as more than 35 million tax returns remain unprocessed: watchdog

The Internal Revenue Service was still facing a backlog of more than 35 million unprocessed tax returns as of the end of the 2021 filing season in May — a pileup more than four times bigger than the end of the 2019 filing season, according to a government watchdog.

The National Taxpayer Advocate found in its annual Objectives Report that the most recent tax filing season “was perhaps the most challenging filing season taxpayers, tax professionals, and the IRS have ever experienced.”

The watchdog said the agency had 35.3 million unprocessed returns at the end of the 2021 filing season, up more than four-fold from the 7.4 million unprocessed returns the agency had at the end of the 2019 filing season.

The watchdog also noted that most taxpayers are entitled to a refund. This filing season, 70% of individual income tax returns received refunds, with an average refund of $2,827, the NTA said.

But with a record number of unprocessed returns, Americans are scrambling to get answers from the IRS.

“The IRS received more telephone calls this filing season than in any previous filing season, and at one point in the height of filing season, the IRS received over 1,500 calls per second,” the NTA said in its report.

The agency received more than 85.1 million calls to its critical 1040 customer support phone line for individual tax returns in the 2021 season, the watchdog said. That’s up a staggering 978% from 2018 levels, it added.

Of the millions who called the agency over the past year, just 3% were able to connect with a human being, the NTA found.

The watchdog noted that the IRS has faced a surge in demand for its services as the federal government rolled out economic relief efforts that relied on the agency’s support.

The agency has processed 136 million individual income tax returns and issued 96 million refunds totaling $270 billion during the 2021 filing season, the NTA said.

“The IRS and its employees deserve tremendous credit for what they have accomplished under very difficult circumstances, but there is always room for improvement,” it added…Read more>>


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