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Why 10 million people still don't have their tax refund

What you can do to speed up your refund next year
Tax Season Begins
Posted at 4:00 AM, Jul 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-18 07:11:08-04

We are more than halfway through 2022, and millions of people are still waiting for their tax refunds.

One very frustrated taxpayer wants to know what's behind the delay, and how long those affected may have to wait.

Rick Owens dreamed of building a $2,000 above-ground pool for his family this summer with the money he would get from his tax refund. So, he mailed his paper return in on February 5, but five months later, he had received nothing.

"We hadn't heard anything," he said, "and my wife checked on the computer, but they had no information there."

"We didn't even know if they received it in the mail," he said.

He called the IRS's toll-free number but said, "that was impossible. We couldn't talk to anybody."

Millions of taxpayers face similar delays.

As of July 1, the IRS says it had a backlog of 10 million unprocessed paper returns this year. Tax experts say paper returns add a few weeks to the process in a normal year, but not the four, five, or even six-month delays some people are seeing now.

Much of the problem is blamed on the ongoing labor shortage.

Mark Steber, Chief Information Officer for the tax prep firm Jackson Hewitt, told us, "the IRS is facing the same challenges that many companies are. People can't go to work or choose not to go to work."

Steber says the best way to avoid these long delays is to file electronically.

"It's faster, it's safer, and you get your money quicker," he said. "You get your tax return processed quicker."

There are some cases when you have to file a paper return, such as in cases of identity theft.

But, of the 17 million people who file on paper, Steber says a majority do so by choice.

What you can do

He says if it's been more than four weeks, check the tool on www.IRS.gov called "Where's my Refund?"

If you find nothing there after a couple of months, there could be a problem.

He suggests you:

  • Visit a tax professional who may be able to check on the status of your return.
  • Watch for IRS notices in the mail.
  • Remember that accuracy counts and any errors in your filing can lead to a lengthy delay. The IRS will have to go over your return line-by-line.

Good news: After we spoke with Owens, he finally got a notice his refund is on the way.

But it's too late for that pool he was dreaming about.

Next year, Owens said he's going to "e-file, yeah."

He suggests everyone file electronically so you don't waste your money. Or time.
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