Tax return backlog still ‘crushing’ the IRS – and taxpayers – as pileup exceeds 21 million, agency watchdog reports

IRS Commissioner Chuck Ratting testifies before the Senate Finance Committee on April 7, 2022.

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According to an agency watchdog, the IRS backlog of tax returns has grown over the past year, despite efforts to clean up the pile.

There were 21.3 million unprocessed paper returns as of May 31, up from 20 million a year ago, Taxpayer Advocate Service shared in its mid year report to Congress.

“Unfortunately, at this point in time the backlog is still crushing the IRS, its employees, and most importantly, taxpayers,” wrote National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collinswho leads the independent organization within the IRS.

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“The backlog continues to grow, mainly because millions of taxpayers have been waiting six months or more to get their refunds,” Collins said.

While more than 90% of taxpayers filed returns electronically last year, about 17 million sent paper filings, contributing to the backlog.

According to the report, over the past year, the delay in refunds for some paper-file returns has exceeded six months, with many waiting for 10 months or more.

Watchdog IRS . Shared ‘Missing Opportunities’ for

The report also highlights a “missed opportunity” for the agency over the past year after identifying issues with paper returns.

“If the IRS had taken steps a year ago to reassign existing employees to processing tasks, it could have reduced the inventory backlog incurred this filing season and accelerated the payment of refunds to millions of taxpayers. was,” Collins wrote.

Over the past 12 months, the agency has ramped up efficiencies with new scanning technology, or to use part of the $1.5 billion funding from the 2021 US rescue plan to hire new employees, the report said. has progressed rapidly.

CNBC has reached out to the IRS for comment.

IRS plans to hire more employees

agency in March Common plan to hire 10,000 employees, starting with 5,000 new employees. However, the IRS did not achieve half of the 5,000-worker headcount in May, according to Ken Corbin, the agency’s chief taxpayer experience officer.

IRS Commissioner Chuck Rattig said, “We are focused on doing everything we can to expedite the processing of these tax returns, and we continue to add more people to this effort as our recruiting efforts kick off this summer. are continuing.” said in a press release This week.

As of June 10, the IRS had processed about 4.5 million of the more than 4.7 million individual paper returns from 2021, and the agency Expects to complete error free personal filings This week from 2021.