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TaxWatch: ‘The issues with the IRS are still present and very real’: Millions of Americans are racing to file their tax returns, and filing extensions

Tax Day came and went earlier this week, so if your upcoming weekend plans are just chilling after the last-minute tax time bustle, you might have company.

April 18 marked the deadline in most states to pay any federal income taxes due, and either submit an income tax return or file an extension.

More than 19.2 million households filed their taxes in the final full week before that deadline, concluding Friday, April 15, according to Internal Revenue Service numbers released Friday on this year’s filing season.

Average tax-refund payouts continue to trend higher than last year, when the filing season stretched through May 17. Currently, the average refund amount is $3,103, an 8% increase from $2,873 average last year in mid-April 2021.

The bigger payday could be a product of pandemic-related tax provisions, experts have said. Learn more on checking your refund status here.

The latest numbers do not even count the wave of returns filed in the waning days ahead of the April 18 deadline, or April 19 for Maine and Massachusetts taxpayers.

But Friday’s numbers start showing the 2022 specifics on the ending rush that occurs every tax season.

“The 19.2 million returns received in the week ending April 15 are up from the 12 million the IRS received during April’s first full week.”

The 19.2 million returns received in the week ending April 15 are up from the roughly 12 million returns the IRS received during April’s first full week.

For some context, every single one of New York City’s 8.8 million residents could file taxes twice, and that would still be shy of the 19.2 million tax return tally.

The IRS expects it will get more than 160 million individual tax returns during 2022. By April 15, it’s received 122.5 million, which is just over three-quarters of all expected individual returns.

The IRS is planning on receiving 15.2 million extension requests this year — a request that will buy the taxpayer time to file a return by Oct. 17, not more time to pay any balance due.

Business and individuals spent an average 13 hours compiling paperwork and completing forms, the IRS estimated. When paying others to prepare their taxes, whether hiring a professional or using software, the IRS says taxpayers spent an average $240, though non-business returns alone could cost $160 for preparation. That’s in spite of the free tax preparation services that are available.

“When paying others to prepare their taxes, the IRS says taxpayers spent an average $240.”

The latest filing statistics are a near-end snapshot of a challenging tax season. The IRS came in with a backlog of last year’s returns and correspondence that soared in the millions. That’s a product of the pandemic and crush of extra work for the agency (and also a sign of its “chronic underfunding,” according to the Biden administration).

As of April 1, the agency had a backlog that included 11.4 million unprocessed paper returns from individuals and businesses, according the IRS’s National Taxpayer Advocate. This stack contains 3.3 million returns received last year, according to the consumer watchdog within the IRS.

Between a surge in hiring and staff reassignments, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said the agency can clear the backlog by the end of 2022.

The IRS urged taxpayers to file their tax returns electronically instead of paper to avoid getting bogged down in the backlog. Many people went the e-file route, numbers show.

Of the approximate 122.5 million tax returns received so far, 117.8 million were e-filed. That’s around 96% of all returns filed this year, and also 12.5% more e-filed returns than the same point last year.

During the tax season, lawmaker and coalitions of tax professionals called on the IRS to take steps including a halt on automated notices that flagged potential problems to taxpayers. The issue was the notices went out, but the potential problems were already addressed. The backlog, however, made it difficult for the IRS to know the latest status.

The IRS paused a number of notices, but some say there’s still room for more taxpayer help.

“The individual tax-filing deadline may have passed, but the issues with the IRS are still present and very real for the millions and millions that still need to file,” said Melanie Lauridsen, senior manager for tax policy and advocacy at the American Institute of CPAs.

“It’s unlikely that, with the measures the IRS has already announced, these issues will be resolved by the October deadline — possibly even by next tax filing season,” Lauridsen said in a statement. “They still have a chance to make things easier for and provide relief to millions of taxpayers — we encourage them to do that.”

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