IRS behind on millions of 2019 tax returns

Susan Tompor - Detroit Free Press

Christanine Brodis gathered her tax paperwork in February including a 1099-G for state unemployment compensation and a W2-G for some gambling winnings at MGM Grand Detroit, the only bright spot in a money-losing 2020. But she’s looking at taxable income now.

Brodis, 48, sent her forms to a tax preparer by encrypted email, talked on the phone in her living room on a cold Saturday morning and had her 1040 prepared remotely as part of COVID-19 precautions taken now through the Accounting Aid Society in metro Detroit.

Now she waits and wonders.

The Detroiter, who has been out of work during the pandemic, is expecting a tax refund of more than $4,500 for 2020 via direct deposit.

She’s hoping she’ll see that money sooner than an anticipated refund for her 2019 income tax return, which is still hanging in limbo somewhere.

“It’s been over a year now,” Brodis said. “They accepted my taxes last year on Feb. 7. It doesn’t seem like it should go that slowly, but there’s nothing I can do to speed it up.”

The COVID-19 pandemic turned the tax season upside down last year, and even now millions of people are still dealing with the aftermath in 2021.

The Internal Revenue Service said in mid-February that it had yet to process 6.7 million individual income tax returns for 2019, based on data through Jan. 30.

Getting those returns processed — and any refunds involved in hand — may require additional review, dealing with corrections and addressing some ID theft-related problems where the IRS will need to work with taxpayers, according to the IRS.

Most 2019 federal income tax returns have been processed. But the lingering problems are significant, enough that the House Ways and Means Committee is asking the IRS for answers and calling for the IRS to extend the tax return deadline for 2020 tax returns beyond April 15.

IRS processing centers shut down early in the pandemic last year. Piles of paperwork sat untouched for months in truck trailers. The IRS last year acknowledged delays involving the filing of paper returns as a result of what it calls “COVID-19 mail processing delays.”

The delays aren’t just limited to paper returns, though, as tax preparers and taxpayers told the Free Press that they e-filed and still couldn’t get their situations resolved last year, either.

Some who filed electronically voiced frustration about their missing tax refunds from their 2019 tax returns, too.

Even CPAs see trouble

“They’re calling, like ‘Hey, can you check on the status of my refund?’ ” said Antonio Brown, a CPA in Flint, Mich., whose firm prepares about 300 tax returns a year.

Brown, who is chief executive officer of John L Financial Services, said one client is due a federal income tax refund for the 2019 return of around $2,300 and another married couple is waiting for nearly $6,500 in a federal income tax refund.

“I’ve never experienced someone waiting 10 to 11 months for a refund from the IRS, and I’ve been doing this for a while,” said Brown.

Susan Tompor

Detroit Free Press

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