KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Knoxville man has a question for the IRS: Why is it taking so long to get his tax return?

Tom Slagle and his wife have been waiting three years for their 2019 return to be processed. He has followed the Internal Revenue Service list of instructions on the internet trying to locate his refund.

The IRS has issued a number of statements announcing that the service is experiencing delays over the last two years,. Each time, the IRS says it is working hard to get through the inventory, however waiting for three years can get really old.

Slagle said he’s usually a patient man, but the retired federal court law clerk has run out of patience. His income tax return for 2019 filed on April 1, 2020, has not arrived yet. He was expecting a refund of just over $6,000.

“In November, November of 2020, I finally got notice that they had received it. I have learned from my accountant, that trucks, this was during COVID, trucks sat outside the Kansas City office full of these tax returns at least until November,” said Slagle.

In the summer of 2021, he got a letter from the IRS, saying he was going to be penalized for not filing taxes for 2019.

“I faxed them a copy of the tax return that I had filed and the return receipt that I had received in November. I heard nothing from them after that,” said Slagle.

He told WATE that he tried every avenue he knew of to get the issue with his return resolved.

“You can’t get anyone on the telephone. I’ve tried the local office and you’d be on hold forever,” said Slagle.

To help find his refund, he turned to the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service last year.

“It wouldn’t take my social security number or my wife’s,” said Slagle.

He recently went back online to the Taxpayer Advocate Service.

“Now it says what year are you asking your return for 2020, 2021, or 2022? You have to check a box, but it doesn’t give you the option to request information about your 2019 return,” said Slagle.

The IRS said it was plagued by workers leaving during the pandemic and budget cuts. A promotion video from the agency touts the hiring of 10,000 new permanent and seasonal workers over the last year to process returns. However, the IRS is still behind.

“I’m not the only person in this boat. There are apparently millions of people this has happened to,” said Slagle. “I just want it processed. They can disagree with the amount. I want it processed. Once you file it on paper, you can’t re-file it online unless they grant you that permission.”

He added that he could not even get through to them to ask for permission.

WATE contacted the IRS about Slagle’s refund, but there’s been no response yet. However, in its latest update released three days ago, the IRS says it processed all paper and electronic individual returns received prior to August 2023.

This means the IRS has processed all returns received for tax year 2021 or earlier, if those returns had no errors, or missing information, and did not require further review. As of September 2, 2023, the IRS said it has 47,000 paper returns waiting to be reviewed and processed.

Additionally, the IRS said this work does not typically require its agents to correspond with taxpayers, but it does require “special handling” by an IRS employee. So, it’s possible Slagle’s paperwork is among the 47,000 paper returns waiting to be individually processed.