Tax Day Is One Month Away — Experts Share Their Tips for Taxpayers Based on Delays and Complications They’ve Seen So Far

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With one month left until Tax Day, a slew of delays and errors are already piling up, experts say. 

Even before tax season began, IRS officials and tax pros predicted issues with  short staffing, pandemic-related changes to the tax code, and an ongoing backlog from last year would impact this tax season. And now, experts say, many oftax practitioners predicted those concerns have come to fruition. Their advice: File electronically and do it ASAP. 

Here are a few common themes experts have seen so far this tax season, and what you can expect between now and Tax Day, whether you’ve filed and you’re waiting on a refund or you still need to submit your return: 

The Growing IRS Backlog 

At the start of the tax season, the IRS had 24 million unprocessed returns from previous years, according to The Washington Post. And that number will likely only grow this tax season, says Janet Holtzblatt, a senior fellow at Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. 

Janet Holtzblatt
Janet HoltzblattCourtesy of Janet Holtzblatt

“They’ve got a backlog, which means by the end of this tax season, they’ll still be in backlog status,” Holtzblatt says. 

One reason is the IRS staffing shortage, which IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig has spoken about recently. Already, the agency has announced plans to hire thousands of new employees this year. But in the meantime, the lack of resources can create another bottleneck for processing the backlog and the steady flow of incoming returns. 

“For many taxpayers, this is going to be a frustrating season,” Holtzblatt says. But it’s not a suprise — “The commissioner said that at the very beginning.” 

More Taxpayers May File Extensions

Complicated pandemic-related changes to the tax code, including reconciling advance Child Tax Credit and Economic Impact payments, have all added complexity to the filing process for many taxpayers. 

Joanne Burke
Joanne BurkeCourtesy of Joanne Burke

Ahead of tax season, experts warned the best way to avoid delays and errors caused by these changes was to get your return in quickly. “The basic rule of thumb here is file early — usually that’s the best thing,” says Joanne Burke, CFP, and founder of Birch Street Financial Advisors. 

But with a month left before Tax Day, some experts are already predicting an influx of taxpayers who file extensions. “When you’ve got any of these kind of sticky situations, you may want to hold off and extend,” Burke says. Keep in mind that if you need to file an extension, you must still pay your estimated taxes owed on Tax Day — Monday, April 18. However, you’ll have more time to file your return with the IRS.

Ongoing Delays

Even a simple math oversight can delay your return approval and refund — and changes to the tax code this year make it even more important to double check the numbers when you file. 

Duke Alexander Moore
Duke Alexander MooreCourtesy of Duke Alexander Moore

“I think there’s going to be a lot of issues and probably complaints about people who file their taxes and it says one [refund] amount, but then when they receive their refund, it’s a different amount,” says Duke Alexander Moore, an enrolled agent and founder of Duke Tax Online.

The Recovery Rebate Credit, which is designed to help eligible taxpayers reconcile stimulus payments they’re owed, is one you may want to pay special attention to. There’s also a chance that many refunds will be delayed for further review from the IRS because amounts claimed through the Recovery Rebate Credit and from advance Child Tax Credit payments don’t match what the IRS has on file, Burke says.

To avoid this problem, refer to your IRS online account to make sure the tax information you add to your return matches what’s on file. You can also refer to your bank statements to see if you received the payment, Moore says.

The expanded Charitable Contributions Credit is another to watch for. It allows a standard deduction of up to $300 for individuals and $600 for married couples filing jointly. But some returns are reporting  contributions above those thresholds — which the IRS must correct before issuing a refund check, Moore says.

Working with a tax professional can also help you get help from the IRS and avoid long hold times. Even if you don’t want to pay for professional tax prep, you can have a pro review your return for errors before you file, usually for a reduced price.

Practitioners have two lines they can call to get refund updates and help with errors before submitting, Moore says. In some cases, they can contact the IRS on your behalf in as little as five minutes to get answers to questions — just like skipping the line, he says. 

Increased Fraud

Another reason for concern and IRS delays is a rise in fraud attempts, says Mark Steber, chief tax information officer for Jackson Hewitt, a tax preparation services company. 

Mark Steber
Mark SteberCourtesy of Mark Steber

The risk is higher this year because the expanded tax credits and tax law changes could mean larger refunds for fraudsters to benefit from. “I’ll say the IRS is under massive assault because of these larger credits,” Steber says. 

For taxpayers, that means waiting longer for refunds due to data authentication and validations from tax professionals and the IRS. 

“If you file early, your data is locked in, your dependent’s data is locked in, your spouse’s data (if you have one) is locked in,” Steber says. But if you’re waiting to file at the last minute, you may increase your chances of facing fraud or identity theft. 

Surprise Payments for New Entrepreneus

Many Americans who picked up side gigs or worked multiple jobs to supplement their income during the pandemic may be in for a big surprise this year in the form of increased payments and tax penalties, says Carli Huband, JD, speciality tax leader at Aprio, an accounting and business advisory firm in Atlanta. 

Carli Huband
Carli Huband, JDCourtesy of Carli Huband

“There’s probably a lot of people with taxes that they didn’t realize they were going to have to pay,” says Huband. Food delivery workers or rideshare service drivers, for example, can refer to their Form 1099 when preparing to file. However, if you didn’t request enough money to be deducted for quarterly taxes on your income last year, you may have to pay the remainder by the Monday, April 18, tax deadline. 

And depending on the amount of increased income your freelance work or side gig brought in, you might have increased your tax rate, and owe more in taxes than in previous years. If you didn’t account for the change, that could be another surprise expense.

If you haven’t already, start collecting your documents and the details of how much you paid in taxes over 2021 so you can create a plan to pay any taxes owed by the deadline. 

How to Simplify Your Return This Tax Season

With one month left before the tax deadline, experts agree the best thing you can do to avoid delays is file as early as possible. 

Make sure your documents are in order, and see which tax changes might have an effect on your individual return. Avoid simple mistakes — like entering the wrong Social Security number or bank account information — and ask a tax professional to review your return before electronically submitting it. 

Pro Tip

Moore recommends setting up an online account with the IRS to track all your documents and payments with the agency before starting the tax filing process. Looking at your tax transcript ahead of time can help you prepare to file your taxes accurately by using the information the IRS will reference when processing your return.

If you plan to work with a tax pro in any way, speed is even more important. Not only may their tax prep rates increase as Tax Day nears, but it can get more difficult to secure an appointment at all.