IRS Status and Issues

TAKE EXTRA CARE IN RETURN PREP, RETTIG URGES AT START OF FILING SEASON

By Joseph Boris

IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig launched the 2022 tax filing season by urging that Americans take extra care to ensure payments and refunds are processed swiftly despite COVID-19 hurdles, adding the agency plans to maintain normal filing deadlines after numerous extensions since the pandemic began.

"There are three steps people can take to make sure they get their refunds as quickly as possible: file electronically, file accurately, and request a direct deposit of your refund," Rettig said January 24 in a conference call with reporters.

The commissioner said the third filing season since the pandemic hit comes amid the closure of IRS tax return processing centers, staff shortages worsened by health and safety concerns, and the "array of new responsibilities" foisted on the agency over the past year from changes in tax laws and regulations.

Repeating recent comments from Treasury officials, the IRS chief said the 2022 season could be "frustrating for taxpayers and tax professionals" alike, but the agency is taking an all-hands approach to the challenges.

Still, there are no plans among decision-makers at the IRS or Treasury to push this year's filing deadline beyond Monday, April 18, Rettig said in response to a reporter's question.

"As of today, there is no intent" for any extension, he said, though he added that the situation would be closely monitored: "We don't make that decision lightly, either to extend it or not extend it. We share the same concerns everybody else has. We listen to a lot of people and we make a decision that we believe is best for the country."

In 2020, with the pandemic having hit much of the world just three months before the traditional U.S. filing deadline of April 15, the cutoff was delayed until mid-July. In 2021, the IRS and Treasury set the deadline at May 17 after initially declining an extension.

Taxpayers are still allowed to request a filing extension, to October 15, on an individual basis, but they must still pay any owed taxes by the regular deadline, or initiate a payment plan, the commissioner explained.

Over the course of the pandemic, the IRS has disbursed three rounds of economic stimulus checks and advance payments under an expanded Child Tax Credit program while fielding over 100 million phone calls, creating a backlog, particularly of paper forms including returns.

As of December 2021, the IRS had 6.7 million unprocessed 2020 tax returns and 2.6 million amended returns, said Ken Corbin, head of the agency's Wage and Investment division, who joined Rettig on the call.

"For too long, the IRS has suffered too few resources to give the American people the service that they deserve," Rettig said.