Is the IRS Behind on Processing Tax Returns? Possible Refund Delays

Although the IRS is on track to process 2021 tax returns quickly, your refund still might be delayed. Why is the IRS still struggling to keep up?

Jennifer Farrington - Author

Feb. 10 2022, Published 3:24 p.m. ET

IRS sign
Source: Getty Images

The IRS kicked off the 2022 tax filing season with a backlog of unprocessed and amended tax returns it received in 2021. It also opened up with a warning to taxpayers that delays could arise and that returns should be checked and double-checked for accuracy because errors could cause your refund to arrive later than expected.

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Now that we made it through the first few weeks of the tax filing season, people want to know whether the IRS will process their return promptly or if they will have to wait longer for their tax refund. After reviewing updates from the IRS, we have some answers.

IRS updates signal that it's on track to process 2021 returns without delays—but that could change.

Is the IRS behind on tax returns?
Source: Pexels

On February 9, 2022, the IRS issued a press release stating that it was working on initiatives to help reduce burdens for both taxpayers and the agency. As of Feb. 9, the IRS won't be sending out certain types of notices to taxpayers, which will reduce the workload for the agency and allow it to focus on catching up and staying current with the 2021 tax filing season.

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Source: Twitter

Some of the types of notices the IRS is suspending include letters regarding additional tax owed and letters to individuals with no record of filing a tax return. While this will help the IRS work through its list of tasks with more ease, the agency did say that “in select circumstances,” employees could still send out notices to taxpayers.

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The COVID-19 pandemic still poses a threat and could cause delays with the 2022 tax filing season.

Although the IRS is working diligently to ensure that the 2022 tax filing season is completed with minimal delays, the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much a threat. The pandemic continues to interfere with the supply chain and workforces, causing chicken and paint shortages. The pandemic could cause significant interference with IRS operations as well.

As we get further into the tax season, you can visit the IRS website or the agency’s Twitter page for any updates regarding delays.

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  • If you haven’t filed your tax return yet and want to reduce your chances of having your refund delayed, consider the following:

    1. File your taxes before March 15, 2022. This is generally when the tax filing season reaches its peak. At that point, the IRS could experience delays with tax returns.
    2. Check your return for accuracy before filing it. If your tax return contains one or more errors, there's a good chance that the IRS will reject it. If the IRS rejects your tax return, you will have to wait longer for your refund.
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    Your tax refund might still be delayed.

    If the IRS is able to work through the growing pile of 2021 tax returns it receives without incurring significant delays, you might still have to wait for your refund. There are certain tax credits that take longer to process than others. For example, the IRS said that it wouldn't be issuing tax refunds for the CTC (Child Tax Credit) until mid-February, according to federal law.

    The agency also stated that any taxpayers who claimed the EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit) on their 2021 tax return wouldn’t receive their refund until after March 1, 2022. The IRS says that tax refunds involving the CTC or EITC must be reviewed carefully since these are the credits that are taken advantage of the most.


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