A build-up of unprocessed tax returns at the IRS caused by the pandemic has become a focal point for lawmakers who are reminding the agency that Americans need the cash amid the ongoing economic recovery.
IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said during testimony before House lawmakers last week that there was a backlog of 2.4 million individual income tax returns filed prior to Jan. 1 of this year. The total individual income returns that are in processing is 7.3 million.
“We would hope to be through this backlog by the summer,” Rettig said. “If we have to send follow-up information to the taxpayer, that [case] would take longer.”
The backlog including business returns is closer to 24 million.
Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., told Rettig that his constituents have been very dependent on stimulus checks and refunds throughout the pandemic.
“But the backlog that we’ve seen in the 2019 returns was extremely concerning, and that’s because [people] really depend on that money,” Gomez said.
The importance of getting through the backlog, Rettig added, is not lost on him or any of the IRS staffers.
Between 2019 and 2020, Rettig said, there are 5 million returns that are “in suspense.” These returns have been looked at, and the agency has contacted filers for additional information. Though some of these people have likely responded, the IRS may not have opened the mail yet.
The agency also paid out interest on refunds to nearly 14 million taxpayers, though the average check was only about $18.