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IRS current year filing backlog at 8.2 million tax returns

IRS building WDC cropped

The Internal Revenue Service says it has made progress this summer in reducing its COVID-created paperwork backlog. In fact, it has caught up on last year's stacked up filings that didn't have issues.

"The IRS is opening mail within normal timeframes and all paper and electronic individual returns received prior to January 2022 have been processed if the return had no errors or did not require further review," according to an update today, Sept. 2, on the agency's webpage that tracks its operations during the pandemic.

Making progress on 2022, too: As for returns filed this year, the IRS says that as of Aug. 26, it had 8.2 million unprocessed individual returns. This group includes tax year 2021 returns, and late-filed tax year 2020 and prior returns.

The breakdown of those 8.2 million returns submitted in 2022 and awaiting processing is —

  • 1.7 million that require error correction or other special handling, and
  • 6.5 million paper returns waiting to be reviewed and processed.

The IRS' latest official count of filing activity for the 2022 filing season is through May 20. At the end of that week, the IRS reported it had received more than 145 million returns and processed almost 141 million of them.

In order to get through the backlog of 2022 filings, the IRS says it is "continuing to reroute tax returns and taxpayer correspondence from locations that are behind to locations where more staff is available, and we are taking other actions to minimize any delays."

Longer refund wait: If the return you filed this year is among the 8.2 million getting added IRS attention, expect to wait a bit longer for any refund associated with it.

The IRS says processing of current returns with errors or where agents have questions is taking more than the 21-day refund issuance target that it generally tries to meet. In fact, according to the IRS online update, in some cases it could take more than 120 days for processing and distribution of related refunds.

Also note when you filed. The IRS is opening and processing tax returns in the order received. So if you filed close to the April 15 deadline and there is an issue with your Form 1040, you could be waiting for a while.

Contact with taxpayers … or not: The IRS said it generally won't need to contact taxpayers in connection with most of the 8.2 million returns requiring special attention.

However, where the agency corrects any Recovery Rebate Credit, Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit, or Additional Child Tax Credit claimed on a return, it will send the affected taxpayers an explanation of the changes.

The IRS encourages taxpayers who do get a notice about an issue on their recent filing to respond as quickly as possible.

"The resolution of these issues could take more than 120 days depending on how quickly and accurately you respond, and the ability of IRS staff trained and working under social distancing requirements to complete the processing of your return," said the IRS.

In the meantime, the agency recommends that taxpayers awaiting refunds continue to check the online tracker Where's My Refund? It is updated once a day. You also can create an online taxpayer account. This will give you access your individual account information, including balance, payments, tax records, and more.

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