By Julie Jason, originally posted on Forbes.com
I’ve received a number of letters from readers of this forbes.com column asking for help with both tax refunds and stimulus payments. They want to know, what’s going on? I have some answers, but, unfortunately, no advice to each reader, as each delay could be situational, that is, unique to the person experiencing the delay.
Readers Speak Out
B.W. from Georgia writes: “I am still waiting for my refunds for 2020. We filed 1st of March, still no answers. When I use the IRS website they say still pending. On [the] phone they say use the site. The site says pending. How can I actually find out what is going on?”
L.K. from Delaware writes: “I am a Forbes reader. I saw your article on tax issues. I mailed my return, and I can’t even see if they received [it]. I have been trying for 2 months.”
C.G. from Chicago writes: “I was supposed to receive my refund today. I have yet to receive it. ... Who can I speak to about this matter?”
T.L. from Seattle writes: “I’m still waiting on my tax re[funds]. ... I called [the IRS] 2 months ago and I was told I should receive a check by May 24, 2021.”
M.M., who was laid off, writes: “I’m waiting on my refund like so many who are struggling. ... I am very frustrated by the way people who need it most, those who have had children during this pandemic, are the very ones who have not received any stimulus money and are having our taxes held up with absolutely no communication.”
All Different Situations
These individuals have very different backgrounds and circumstances that could explain delays in refunds and stimulus payments; the one commonality is they need help. The problem is there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The best we can do here and now is seek some insights from the IRS. This is what I found out.
The IRS Responds
For those awaiting refunds, the IRS is aware of delays and is doing all it can to work through the processing of millions of tax returns.
An IRS spokesperson explained: “If your refund is taking longer, we apologize. We know how important it is to process and issue refunds quickly. Rest assured that our folks are working hard – even overtime – to get you your money.”
As of June 5, about 18 million individual returns were in the processing pipeline, including some from prior years. The IRS is hoping to get the backlog down to zero sometime this summer.
There are some reasons that are unique to 2020 that may be causing delays, explained the spokesperson: the Recovery Rebate Credit (RRC) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). With the RRC, a top cause for delay is a taxpayer claiming a credit that is different from what appears to be their eligible amount (according to IRS records). With the EITC, it often involves a person who chose to use their 2019 income to figure the credit. In both cases, the situation calls for individual attention from an IRS employee, which means the return can take longer to process.
Could Your Return Be Delayed For Other Reasons?
The other delays that may be affecting your particular situation could be these items pointed out on the IRS website: if the return is affected by identity theft or fraud, contains errors or is incomplete. The IRS will contact a taxpayer by mail if more information is needed to process a return. What is unknown is when that might occur.
Refunds Processed So Far
While this won’t help the readers who contacted me, so far this year, IRS filing statistics for the week ending June 4, 2021 showed that more than 102 million refunds have already been issued, with more than 90% of them being direct-deposited. You can find weekly updates on the processing of returns on IRS.gov at IRS Operations During COVID-19: Mission-critical functions continue.
What Should You Do?
While you can always call the IRS for help (800-829-1040), try this first.
Go to “Where’s My Refund?” on IRS.gov. Click on the “Check My Refund Status” blue box, then enter your Social Security number or ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number), your filing status and the exact refund amount that was on your tax return. The tool has a tracker that shows three stages: (1) Return Received; (2) Refund Approved; and (3) Refund Sent.
That site is updated once a day, typically overnight, according to the IRS spokesperson.
An IRS App Is Another Option
There is an IRS internet application that can help get you current information on your refund. You can access the app online or using your mobile device. Go online to the IRS.gov website to this page. There, you’ll find “IRS2Go,” which is the official mobile app of the IRS that you can download to your phone through Google Play, amazon.com or Apple.
The app will show you your refund status. You can also use the app to file your tax return for free if you haven’t done so yet. The app has an English and a Spanish version.
It Won’t Help To Send In A Duplicate Return
If you think it might help to send the IRS an extra copy of your tax return, it won’t, explained the IRS spokesperson: It “won’t speed up the process and can often slow it down.”
Can More Be Done?
It would be helpful to provide people in dire need (M.M., for example) special attention. One possible avenue would be for them to contact the U.S. House of Representatives member in their congressional district. The contact information can be found here. A similar option exists for contact information for U.S. senators.
Where Is My Stimulus Check?
The “Get My Payment” tool on IRS.gov remains the key source for people to check the status of their Economic Impact Payments (EIPs).
When it comes to EIPs, more than 169 million direct deposits and checks have been issued, which includes more than 8 million “plus-up” payments (to people who originally got no payment or less than the full amount).
If you are missing a stimulus payment you feel you should have received, there are two options: file a tax return to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit, or use the new Non-filer Sign-Up Tool.
If you did not file a 2020 tax return and do not owe taxes, then you can file a return to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit.
The Non-filer Sign-up Tool was announced on June 14, 2021 by the Treasury Department and the IRS. While the tool is aimed at helping those families who don’t normally file tax returns to register for the monthly advance Child Tax Credit payments (set to begin July 15), it also can be used by people who don’t file tax returns and want to get the 2020 Recovery Rebate Credit and their third Economic Impact Payment. The tool, an update of the IRS Non-filers version that debuted last year, is only available on IRS.gov.
This tool might be helpful for another reader, J.D., who wrote: “I need help on finding out how I go about getting my stimulus checks. ... I’m a man out here that struggles every day to get by and barely make enough money to pay my rent, buy groceries to keep me fed all month, and by then I barely have any money left in my bank account.”
All in all, help is there, but not as timely as one would like. Hopefully — and soon — we’ll find a way to way to fast-track stimulus payments (and refunds) when needs are dire.
Keep In Touch
Do write to me with IRS-related questions at email@example.com. Include your city and state, and mention that you are a forbes.com reader.
To read Julie Jason's books, go to: https://juliejason.com/books/julies-books.