Tax season is about to begin. The IRS is already facing a backlog

The 2021 tax filing season will begin on Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, the Treasury Department announced Monday. But amid the ongoing pandemic and a lack of resources at the Internal Revenue Service, Treasury officials warn it will be a challenge for taxpayers and tax preparers facing a frustrating filing season.

Normally, the IRS would have less than a million items to process in the backlog entering tax filing season, but due to complications from the coronavirus pandemic, that is not the case this tax season. statements. Treasury officials did not give an exact figure for the backlog, but said it was significant, several times over 1 million.

The taxman is keep catching up from the height of the pandemic. In 2020, mail centers were closed for a month. Meanwhile, more than 20% of the IRS’ customer service workforce has been unable to work for pandemic-related health reasons in the past two years.

At the same time, the IRS faces dwindling resources: over the past decade, the IRS budget has been cut by almost 20%. During the last administration, staff at taxpayer assistance centers also shrank to the point where less than a third of the number of taxpayers able to receive face-to-face assistance from the IRS compared to 2016.

According to Treasury officials, the IRS workforce is now the same as it was in 1970, despite the 60% population growth. The processing technology dates back to the 1960s. And there are also fewer listeners than at any time since World War II.

“In many areas, we are unable to provide the amount of service and enforcement that our taxpayers and our tax system deserve and need. It’s frustrating for taxpayers, for employees of the IRS and for me,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said. “IRS employees want to do more, and we will continue in 2022 to do everything we can with the resources we have.”

Treasury officials are urging taxpayers to get their tax returns as soon as possible. Taxpayers do not need to wait for previous returns to be processed to submit their 2021 returns. Tax filing season will continue until April 18, 2022.

Officials are encouraging taxpayers to file electronically with direct deposit to ensure that refunds do not experience processing delays. They are also urging taxpayers to check for accuracy when filing — especially making sure to report the correct amounts of stimulus payments received and child tax credit payments advanced — to avoid delays.

If they choose direct deposit and there are no issues with the tax return, the IRS expects most taxpayers to receive their refund within 21 days of filing electronically.

Reaching the IRS to answer questions will continue to be a challenge this year, the agency said. In the first half of 2021, there were fewer than 15,000 people to handle more than 240 million calls made, or one person for every 16,000 calls. Last year, the IRS was able to respond to less than 30% of the calls it received, according to Treasury officials.

The IRS has worked to create more online tools and resources to help taxpayers answer questions, which officials are encouraging taxpayers to use.

The Biden administration is pushing for more money and resources to help the IRS. The agency received $2 billion under the US rescue plan passed last March. The proposed budget for 2022 called for increasing IRS funding by almost 15%.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has included $80 billion in money for the IRS over the next decade as part of the Building back better, which would focus largely on tax enforcement, but also on taxpayer services. This provision, as part of much larger legislation, was able to pass in the House, but hit a wall in the Senate.