KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — For those who filed their income tax return by the May 17 deadline and are expecting a refund quickly, don’t hold your breath.

It is unlikely your money is going to hit your bank account anytime soon.

Federal auditors say delays are much longer than expected for millions of people. One Anderson County man shared how he has waited three months for his return.

In February, Bob Hazel filed his 2020 tax return electronically. He’s still waiting for his refund.

The Internal Revenue Service has issued nearly 82 million income tax refunds so far, but according to government reports, the IRS is holding 29 million tax returns for manual processing. This is contributing to more refund delays than are typical in the normal filing season.

As Bob Hazel pours over his 2020 income tax return, the retired Y-12 Oak Ridge worker dreams of things he might be doing with his extended family from the nice return he’s expecting from the IRS.
As in the past, Hazel filed his return electronically.

However, he’s never waited this long to receive his refund.

So, in late April, we went to this IRS website to check on the results of his refund — with no luck.

“Well I’ve tried calling, and I can’t get a hold of a person to talk to to find out what’s going on,” Hazel said. “I got a robot person on the phone and that reverts back to filling out the 10-40 thing on your phone. (My tax return) was supposed to have been within 21 days. And, I haven’t heard from anybody or anything since February.”

The Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent arm of the IRS, says millions of newly filed tax returns are getting flagged by the IRS because of issues related to recent tax changes and federal stimulus checks.

Bob checked his status during our visit.

The IRS says in normal years, most tax refunds filed electronically are issued within 21 days.

But in 2020, the IRS closed its offices due to the pandemic. This created a backlog of unprocessed paper 2019 tax returns and the IRS is still catching up and that’s not even counting the high volume of 2020 tax returns being submitted.

“I look on my phone to see what my tax return status was and all I get is your tax return is still being processed,” Hazel said. “You know if you owed them money they’d be knocking on your door. … It is hurry up and wait.”

The IRS says there may be delays for many different reasons. You filed a paper tax return, you made an error on your return, or your return is affected by fraud or even worse, identity theft.

In those cases, the IRS flags the return for “review.” That requires an employee to check the return against the agency’s record of stimulus payments. All that can add time to processing a tax return, which in turn means delays for you in getting your refunds.

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