Susan Tompor: Wait, it's September and you still haven't received your tax refund? Here's why

By Susan Tompor, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Business News

By Labor Day and the roll out of pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks, you'd think, maybe, that you'd finally have your hands on your federal income tax refund.

For most people, after all, tax refund cash has come and gone. They spent that money months ago. Others are waiting and waiting, much like Carol Wilke who filed a tax return the day after the Super Bowl and still had not seen her tax refund of $1,406 seven months later.

The 2020 tax season isn't running short of frustrating scenarios even as the calendar inches closer to 2021. COVID-19 shutdowns threw a monkey wrench into the tax system.

And some, such as those who filed paper tax returns, faced way more headaches and confusion than others as piles and piles of paperwork sit untouched.

At one point, the IRS needed to move a lot of unopened mail into trailers as processing centers were shut down during the pandemic.

Households facing job losses and financial stress in 2020 only feel more aggravation when they can't depend on a four-figure income tax refund arriving on time.


What should you do if you're missing a tax refund?

Mixed messages fill the air, much like autumn leaves, when it comes to what to do about getting your tax refund.

The Internal Revenue Service has acknowledged delays involving the filing of paper returns as a result of what it calls "COVID-19 mail processing delays."

As of an Aug. 31 update, the IRS states online: "We're experiencing delays in processing paper tax returns due to limited staffing. If you already filed a paper return, we will process it in the order we received it. Do not file a second tax return or contact the IRS about the status of your return."


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