IRS employees are continuing to work hard to deliver tax refunds as soon as possible while also delivering critical Economic Impact Payments to taxpayers in record time. This is an unprecedented time for the IRS given the pandemic, new tax laws and three rounds of stimulus payments. This scenario is unfolding at a time when the IRS has fewer resources and staffing than a decade ago.
The IRS knows this is a desperate time for taxpayers, and we continue to do everything we can to help. We continue to deliver tax refunds to people as fast as possible, with an average of more than 1 million refunds being issued every day to the nation’s taxpayers.
The IRS is handling more responsibilities at a time when its budget and staffing have been sharply reduced during the last decade. As the Congressional Budget Office and others have noted, the IRS budget and staffing is down about 20 percent – meaning the IRS has 20,000 fewer people available to help on tax season and other issues.
Tax refunds: A typical tax refund with no issues goes out in 21 days or less. Typically, nine out of 10 refunds filed electronically go out in this time frame. Through March 5, the IRS has issued 36 million refunds following the Feb. 12 start of tax season.
If there is an issue with a tax return that requires additional review, that can add time for some taxpayers, but it varies depending on the issue. Many factors can affect the timing of a refund. Common errors the IRS is seeing this filing season include people not reporting their Economic Impact Payments accurately on the Recovery Rebate Credit line. Tax returns with an error, incomplete information or those affected by identity theft or fraud may take longer to process. If more information is needed to process the return, the IRS will send the taxpayer a letter with a request for information.
Online tools help avoid delays: We urge people to visit IRS.gov and use tools like “Where’s My Refund” and “Get My Payment” for the quickest assistance. Filing electronically with direct deposit is the quickest way to receive a refund; it’s even more important during the pandemic to avoid filing a paper return if at all possible.
We are still working through the impacts of COVID-19, which created staffing shortages and closures. For example, our phone lines continue to be very busy with high call demand with millions of people calling in so far this tax season. We currently have about 13,760 phone assistors, including about 3,800 hired this filing season. We hope to onboard another 1,000 phone assistors using funding associated with the American Rescue Plan.