IRS in arrears will begin accepting tax returns Monday

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Count 30-year-old Ethan Miller in that subset of Americans actually anxious to file their taxes once tax-filing season starts on Monday.

The financial planner, who lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, is looking forward to claiming the new home-buying deductions. He also wants to jump ahead into a tax season that promises to bring many additional headaches and delays for taxpayers this year.

“I’m trying to get a head start on my taxes as much as possible,” Miller said, adding that he’s not too nervous about forecasts of additional delays because he’ll be filing online and won’t wait for a refund that’s too high.

However, many other filers could get more heartburn.

A shortage of IRS manpower, a huge workload managing pandemic-related programs, and stalled legislation that would have earned the agency billions of dollars in expedited tax return processing will cause taxpayers pain this filing season.

“The IRS currently has unacceptable backlogs and the customer service that people are receiving is not what the American public deserves,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki admitted Friday. “The agency is not equipped with the resources to adequately serve taxpayers in normal times, let alone during a pandemic.”

She stressed that the problems existed before the Biden administration, and she called for sympathy for hard-pressed workers who are already burdened with huge arrears. “It’s going to take some work, it’s going to take some time, and I think people need to understand that they need funding,” Psaki said.

Agency officials are already warning applicants that “in many areas we are unable to provide the level of service and enforcement that our taxpayers and tax system deserve and need,” as IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said earlier this month formulated.

Delays in processing are to be expected, particularly as the IRS says it is still processing 2020 tax returns.

In fiscal 2020, the IRS processed more than 240 million tax returns and issued approximately $736 billion in refunds, including $268 billion in stimulus payments, according to the latest IRS data. During the same period, 59.5 million people called or visited an IRS office.

Donald Williamson, an accounting and tax professor at American University in Washington, said he expects “weeks and weeks” of IRS delays in 2022.

“You can blame Congress or the IRS. I imagine they’re trying to do the right thing, but that only adds to the complexity,” he said. “My advice for 2022 is to file early, start tomorrow and try to put your taxes together with a qualified professional.”

Williamson said he advises customers to file electronically and those expecting hefty refunds in the tens of thousands should expect major delays. Most of the backlogged declarations were submitted on paper and are amended declarations.

Submission deadlines have been extended over the past two years due to the pandemic. Whether the agency will give taxpayers similar leeway this year is unclear.

There will be many new topics again this year.

For example, people who are eligible for the child discount and have received prepayments throughout the year may receive a smaller refund than normal.

Individuals who did not receive stimulus checks for which they were eligible under the Pandemic Relief Package may still be able to apply for a “reimbursement rebate credit” on their taxes.

On Thursday, the IRS released a list of the “Top 5 Things to Remember” with suggestions for taxpayers on what documents to gather and what to do if their 2020 tax returns have still not been processed.

The IRS expects most taxpayers to receive their refund within 21 days of electronic filing, provided there are no problems processing their tax returns.

But many pitfalls remain, in part due to staffing issues at the IRS.

Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents IRS workers, said the agency is having “difficulty recruiting because they’re going up against Burger King or McDonald’s,” which offer similar pay without workers “having confusing issues.” Having to circumvent rules and regulations.”

As of Thursday, the agency’s careers website listed at least 180 open positions, including clerks and tax auditors, who make as little as $11 an hour. Of these, 42 positions were publicly accessible; most were only available to internal applicants.

A hoped-for $80 billion infusion for the agency was included in versions of President Joe Biden’s proposed package of social spending programs, but it stalled on Capitol Hill.

Reardon said the IRS “is in deep trouble as to how to carry out its mission effectively and that needs to be addressed.”

“I think the taxpayer bears the brunt of this,” he said, adding that the IRS officials “are bearing the brunt of this blame in dire circumstances.”

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