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Why 10 million people still don't have their tax refund

What you can do to speed up your refund next year
Tax Season Begins
Posted at 4:00 AM, Jul 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-18 14:10:22-04

It's more than halfway through 2022, and millions of people are still waiting for their tax refunds.

One very frustrated taxpayer wants to know what's behind the delay and how long those affected may have to wait. Rick Owens dreamed of building a $2,000 above-ground pool for his family this summer with the money he would get from his tax refund. So, he mailed his paper return in on February 5, but five months later, he had received nothing.

"We hadn't heard anything," he said, "and my wife checked on the computer, but they had no information there."

"We didn't even know if they received it in the mail," he added.

He called the IRS's toll-free number but said, "that was impossible. We couldn't talk to anybody."

Millions of taxpayers face similar delays.

As of July 1, the IRS says it had a backlog of 10 million unprocessed paper returns this year. Tax experts said paper returns add a few weeks to the process in a normal year, but not the up to six month delays some people are seeing now.

Much of the problem is blamed on the ongoing labor shortage.

Mark Steber, chief information officer for the tax prep firm Jackson Hewitt, said "the IRS is facing the same challenges that many companies are. People can't go to work or choose not to go to work." Steber said the best way to avoid these long delays is to file electronically.

"It's faster, it's safer and you get your money quicker," he said. "You get your tax return processed quicker."

There are some cases when taxpayers have to file a paper return, such as in cases of identity theft. But of the 17 million people who file on paper, Steber said a majority do so by choice.

What to do

He said if it's been more than four weeks, check the tool on called "Where's my Refund?"

If the taxpayer can't find anything there after a couple of months, there could be a problem.

He suggests:

  • Visiting a tax professional who may be able to check on the status of the return
  • Watching for IRS notices in the mail
  • Remembering that accuracy counts and any errors in the filing can lead to a lengthy delay. The IRS will have to go over the return line-by-line.

Good news: After speaking with Owens, he finally got a notice his refund is on the way. But it's too late for that pool he was dreaming about. Next year, Owens said he's going to e-file.

He suggests everyone file electronically, so you don't waste your money or time.

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