Friday May 7, 2021
30% Fewer Tax Returns by February 19
The IRS reported that delaying the opening of the 2021 tax return filing season has reduced the number of filed and processed tax returns. For the first week of the filing season, the IRS received 30% fewer returns compared to the same date for the 2020 season. However, the prior season had 26 filing days by February 19, 2020.
As of February 19, 2021, the IRS had received 34.7 million returns and had processed 29.8 million returns. This was well behind the previous year total, due to the shorter filing period. On February 19 of last year, the IRS had processed 48 million returns.
This delay in receiving and processing returns prompted a letter from the House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-MA) and Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ). The letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig noted that only 25% of taxpayer phone calls were being answered. Neal and Pascrell encouraged Rettig to add phone support staff to help increase the number of returns.
Both the number and value of refunds are also down. The dollar value of issued refunds is $48 billion this year, compared with $117 billion on the same date last year.
To encourage prompt filing, the IRS published IR-2021-44 to remind taxpayers there is help through IRS.gov and free tax assistance services.
The IRS Free File program is available to taxpayers with incomes of $72,000 or less. Taxpayers with higher incomes have access to the Free File Fillable Forms. These are electronic versions of the IRS paper forms.
The Free File program is easy to use and enables taxpayers to receive a prompt refund. The IRS issues 9 of 10 refunds in 21 days if the return is filed electronically.
Free File and e-filing also enable taxpayers to make convenient payments. They can pay without fee through an electronic fund withdrawal from their bank account or use Direct Pay.
Members of the armed services can use MilTax to electronically file a federal return. The Department of Defense also provides Military OneSource to assist members of the armed forces. Information on One Source is available at MilitaryOneSource.mil.
The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs provide free help for taxpayers. VITA is available to individuals with incomes of $57,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly and those with limited English proficiency. TCE is available for seniors who are age 60 and older. Last year, over 2.5 million federal tax returns were completed through these programs.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, many volunteers also offer virtual help to taxpayers. The IRS-certified VITA and TCE volunteers can use phone and virtual calls to help taxpayers claim credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.
Taxpayers are reminded that their Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) are not taxable. If you are eligible for an EIP and did not receive the appropriate amount, you may claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 tax return.
To find a VITA or TCE site, log on to IRS.gov and use the VITA or TCE Locator Tool.
Published February 26, 2021
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