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IRS goal: Issue most 2019 tax refunds by Dec. 31, 2020

Tax return_Tax refund Post-It

The Internal Revenue Service has a bit of good, although very belated, news for taxpayers still waiting for their 2019 tax return refunds.

The agency says it plans to issue most of those delayed refunds by the end of the year.

Coronavirus pandemic mail pile-up: The problem stems, of course, from COVID-19. In the spring, most of the federal government and many private companies instituted pandemic protocols.

Among those put in place by the IRS were closures at most of its campuses nationwide. That meant tax work that had to be handled in-office went undone.

The closures also produced a monumental backlog of literal paperwork, as old-school tax documents were delivered by the U.S. Postal Service to empty IRS offices.

The amount of unopened tax mail at one point was nearly 13 million. The IRS said that as of Nov. 24, the backlog has been trimmed to 7.1 million unprocessed individual tax returns and 2.3 million unprocessed business returns.

Descending the snail mail mountain: While still huge, the agency says the current unopened mail amounts are much more manageable.

Even better, the IRS says the reduction should allow the agency to send refunds for 2019 individual tax returns that don't have any filing issues by the end of 2020.

That distribution target date is just — checking the ol' blog's end of year countdown clock over there in the right column — 15 days and a few hours away as I type.

So while it might not be a literal present under your Christmas tree, a long-awaited refund definitely could be a very welcome 2020 holiday gift.

Always some exceptions: Of course, we all know about the best laid plans of men, women and the IRS.

In some cases, the IRS won't be able to issue refunds this year. That will happen where a 2019 tax year return is being corrected, reviewed or the agency is awaiting correspondence from the filer.

Where that happens, the refunds (once the issues are resolved) will be sent as paper checks in 2021.

The relatively good news about the year-end goal for refund issuance is detailed on the IRS' IRS Operations During COVID-19: Mission-critical functions continue Web page.

That page's first section, titled What You Can Expect, elaborates. I've listed some of its other highlights below.

Return processing timing: The IRS says exactly when you'll get your refund depends on where you sent your Form 1040 and where it is in the process.

In some locations, the IRS is caught up or almost caught up. In others, the agency still is processing the truckloads of returns that it received over the summer.

The later-than-usual arrival of returns this year was not due to the Postal Service. Instead, the filing deadline was extended until July 15 due to the pandemic. Millions of folks waited until then to mail their forms.

Others, however, proceeded as usual. The IRS says that in some cases it received filings sent on the usual April 15 Tax Day.

The filing dates are key. The IRS says tax returns are opened in the order received. So if you got yours in earlier, it should be at the front of this delayed processing line.

To expedite the process, the IRS says it is rerouting tax returns and taxpayer correspondence from locations that are behind to locations where more staff is available.

Answer IRS questions quickly: Other things, though, could slow down the process. As a return goes through the IRS channels, it could be delayed because of a filing mistake, missing information or if the IRS suspects identity theft or fraud.

In these cases, the IRS says:

"If we can fix it without contacting you, we will. If we need more information or need you to verify that it was you who sent the tax return, we will write you a letter."

Where you do get a letter, aka an IRS notice, respond to it as soon as possible. Your prompt, accurate and thorough answer will affect how quickly the matter is resolved.

The sooner that happens, the sooner your return will be finalized and your refund issued.

Limited taxpayer next steps: If you've been waiting months for a refund, you naturally want to do all you can to help speed up the process.

Unfortunately, the IRS says that other than responding quickly to any requests it sends you for information about your 2019 tax return, there's' nothing you can do.

So, says the IRS, don't file a second tax return.

And please don't, adds the IRS, contact the agency about the status of your return. I suspect your tax pro, if you got professional help with your 2019 filing, seconds that IRS "quit calling!" advice.

You can, however, continue to check the IRS' online Where's My Refund? search tool. But do so only once a day. It's updated every 24 hours, so multiple calls a day won't yield any additional information.

You also might find these items of interest:


Coronavirus Caveat & More Information
In 2020, we're all dealing with extraordinary circumstances,
both in our daily lives and when it comes to our taxes.
The COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to reduce its transmission
and protect ourselves and our families means that,
for the most part, we're focusing on just getting through these trying days.

But life as we knew it before the coronavirus will return,
along with our mundane tax matters.
Here's hoping that happens soon!
In the meantime, you can find more on the virus and its effects on our taxes
by clicking Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Taxes.






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Roshelly Hernandez

I had the exact same issues as you all. Filed my 2019 electronically in Feb 2020, received my state refund the following week but no federal. I check the WheresMYRefund tool for 8 months with the same message of “still processing”. Also, did not receive my 2 stimulus checks as everyone else did.
I filed my 2020 taxes on Feb 18, 2021 this year and there was a portion where they asked if you received your stimulus checks and once verified they included the stimulus payments with my refund.
I asked my tax advisor what if I should file an amendment for my 2019 with my current she advised not to because it may cause a delay in my current return. I listen to my tax advisor and as expected my refund and stimulus payments came in less then 2 weeks. So I logged on to my irs portal and to my surprise saw an option to submit or request status of my 2019 taxes because it showed as not received. I followed the link, submitted and issue was finally resolved.

If you want to avoid the runaround with the IRS, just file your 2020 taxes and have your tax advisor assist with next steps. Worked for me.

Antonio Harris

Had to send my 2019 return by mail with a document as requested. That was February 18, 2020. Received a letter in July requesting a signature and immediately sent it back. It has been 8 months since then... can’t call and check on it. Never received either stimulus and about to file for this year. This is complete insanity. Not sure if it was received or wasn’t. The mail has been crazy. Huge inconvenience. It’s. Gov never updated.

Tina Drake

I still waiting for my 2019 tax refund... Didn't get stimulus either... I filed in March and for months the IRS tracking tool said processing.. about a month ago it started to say my information does not match...now I can't check it at all because I filed my 20/20 taxes and it'll give me that saying processing... I have already lost hours at work and had to go down part-time six months ago I had a heart attack they have repoed my car and I'm about to lose my apartment

Lori Kern

I filed by mail in March 2020 irs received it on March 5th it's been about a year. I have a tax advocate who won't call me back no way to check on it and now I pray it's not effecting my current return. I'm going to loose everything because they can't just post the stupid thing and get it over with. The Advocate told me 3 weeks ago just waiting for it to post but she's been saying that for 7 months! I had someone steal my identity file as me! That was resolved in July! It's taken 8 months to do a paper return so far it's awful! No stimulus no refund now it's probably messing with my new return even though bi was told to go ahead and file because I have an ip pin but who knows it's just awful.

April Gallagher

I mailed my single payer 2018 taxes back in April. I had already filled my 2019 and got them back because I wanted them to have my information to send the stimulus check. In a month they will have had my return for a year. I need that money. And this is the first time I have ever expected money back. This is hurting folks. They government needs to provide them with more help.


What are we giving up for lent?
Our 2019 tax refund! hahaha :)

Alisa Cooks

Still waiting on my return that was filed and received in late Feb 2020, in late Nov the status disappeared from their site, called, they still have my paperwork and I can't reach out again for 12 weeks. This is crazy, they have had my paperwork for almost a whole year.


Filed my 2019 return electronically in March 2020. As of today still no refund and the where's my refund tool says it cannot provide any information on our refund. Seriously it's been almost a year!


We are a small business in need of an EIDL loan and we cannot get that until they can verify out 2019 tax return numbers. We are at the mercy of the IRS to process our return so it registers to SBA. So frustrating it's a vicious circle. We will help you but you need this to get the help... No wonder so many businesses have closed down. It's our Government not hiring enough people to get through this pandemic and to get caught up! I sent my returns July 15th certified mail and they received them July 20th still nothing :/


Here I’m February 1 2021
Still WAITING FOR MY 2019 refound it’s been more than 200 days 😢🥺🥺🥺🥺


I am still waiting for my refund. I filed a paper return on July 15, 2020, so I expect to be last in line. But "Where's My Refund?" still says only, "we cannot provide any information on your refund." No acknowledgment that the return was even received.

Stephen Muenstermann

I filed my taxes March 27th Electronically. They sent me a letter in August asking me to resend the "Tax Paid" documents with a copy of the letter they sent. I did so immediately. Up until 3 weeks ago it showed "In Processing" Now I get nothing except "You may not have shared your information correctly." There is absolutely no where to call. Every number is automated and there is nowhere to get a human.

It is insane! They owe me $4K and I can't even file for 2020 until they get their act together.


Mailed my paper return on May 13, 2020. Finally showed up as "return received and being processed" in "Where's my refund" on September 15, 2020. Then showed up as "return is still being processed; a refund date will be provided when available" on December 17, 2020. Same status as of today, January 16, 2021. Have called repeatedly and asked if they need anything from me and have been told no but that they still have significant backlog.


You can not check the get my refund app for 2019 returns anymore. I filed electronically January 277, 2020 and still have nothing. I’ve sent the info requested (in September) and had to fax it because they don’t know what they did with it... and NOW I can’t get this stimulus because my refund is still processing. To say I am livid is a colossal understatement. I am a single mother with two children and the IRS can only tell me to “call back In 60 days”

J Hancock

IRS sent me a letter stating that I would know something by December 31st. I mailed in all the paperwork requested prior and still have not heard back. Now the tool says that my information is incorrect. 11 months and waiting.

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