Will Your Tax Return Be Delayed This Year?

Form 1040 on laptop screen next to alarm clockLast year, more than 30 million taxpayers had their tax returns delayed after filing. Could the same thing happen to you this year? Whether you’ve already filed and are waiting for your return to be processed, or you’re still waiting to file, you might be wondering just how long it’s going to take for your return to be finalized. Due to long-time staff shortages, as well as the added work that came from distributing stimulus checks and advanced child tax credit payments, the IRS is running more behind than usual. Here’s what you need to know about the IRS backlog, and the likelihood of your return being delayed this year.

How Big Is the Backlog?

It’s important to note that backlogs are actually quite normal for the IRS. Typically, they’ll begin a new tax season with roughly a million unprocessed returns from the previous tax season. This year, however, they started with a backlog of about 6 million. The good news is, they’re not taking this backlog lightly. The IRS has communicated openly about their efforts to clear the backlog, including hiring thousands of new employees. However, that big of a backlog certainly doesn’t go away overnight, and may contribute to delays in processing this season’s tax returns.

What’s the Average Turnaround Time?

The exact turnaround time on your return will vary depending on a number of factors. (We’ll discuss a few things that may slow it down or that you can do to speed it up in just a moment.) However, the IRS has stated that most Americans should have their returns processed and any refund issues within 21 days of filing their returns. However, that turnaround time may be a bit longer now that we’re pushing towards the tax deadline; typically, the closer we are to the deadline, the longer it takes to process returns, due to the sheer number of tax returns coming through at the last minute.

Common Problems that Slow Down a Return

While you don’t have control over how long it takes the IRS to process your return, it’s a good idea to know what kinds of problems are most likely to cause a delay. These can include:

  • Inaccurate reporting of advanced child tax credit payments – Many parents received advanced payments on their child tax credit payments in the latter half of 2021. If you’re one of them, it’s important to check and double check the amount you’re claiming on your return against the amount you actually received. Letter 6419 from the IRS can help with this, and you should have received this from the IRS back in February. It’s worth noting that some people have reported inaccurate amounts on their Letter 6419, but the IRS has stated that these instances are uncommon, and typically connected to individuals who moved or switched bank accounts during the year.
  • Inaccurate numbers and miscalculations – If you file electronically, these kinds of issues are not as likely to occur, since tax software is designed to double check your calculations for you. However, it’s still important that you check and recheck the numbers you’ve entered—either on the computer or on paper—for accuracy. Even a small math error can cause a big delay in processing your return.
  • Missing information – Again, this is unlikely to happen on an electronic return, as the software will check all the fields for completion. But if you’re filing on paper, make sure you’re not leaving any necessary sections blank. It’s extremely frustrating to have your return rejected because you forgot to include a dependent’s Social Security number, or some other simple bit of information.

These small inaccuracies can cause delays of several weeks so, as your math teacher always told you, double check your work before turning it in!

Can You Speed Up That Return?

Again, you can’t control how fast the IRS works. However, there are a few things you can do to help your return get processed a bit more quickly:

  1. File electronically – We’ve already mentioned a couple benefits of filing electronically above (i.e., it helps prevent many common errors). But electronic returns are also run through a computer to do much of the upfront processing. On simple returns with no issues, your return could be processed entirely by automation, getting it done almost instantaneously. If you file on paper, you have to wait for a human to be available to review it.
  2. Opt for direct deposit – This won’t speed up your return, but it will speed up your refund. Direct deposit through the IRS is much faster than waiting for a check.
  3. Be exact in your numbers – Don’t round off to the nearest number on anything. Use exact numbers that can be supported by documentation.

If you want your return filed and processed as soon as possible, contact Demian & Company CPAs today. We’ll help you get your return filed electronically and avoid simple errors for a faster turnaround time.