IRS Still Working on 35 million Unprocessed 2020 Returns

2021 tax returnStill waiting for your tax refund? The check may—or may not—be in the mail due to a sizeable backlog of returns being handled by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).


A report prepared by the National Taxpayer Advocate offers insight into the 2021 tax filing season and guidance for 2022 upcoming.


You may be wondering what, or who, is the National Taxpayer Advocate? The National Taxpayer Advocate is an independent agency within the IRS. It advertises itself as “your voice at the IRS.” The unit is headed by Erin M. Collins, who styles herself an optimist when discussing the many shortfalls of the IRS this season.


The Taxpayer Advocate works in support of taxpayers, whether individuals or businesses. Offering toolkits, guidance, and clarity concerning taxpayer rights when dealing with the IRS, the Taxpayer Advocate is a little-known resource to many taxpayers facing allegations of tax fraud, tax crime, or an IRS civil tax audit.


At the end of June, 2021, Ms. Collins issued her report to Congress on the current state of the IRS along with objectives for the coming year. Some key points of the report include:

  • The report describes the recent filing season as possibly “the most challenging filing season taxpayers, tax professionals, and the IRS have ever experienced.”
  • In the span of the past year, 170 million taxpayers and businesses received financial support through three stimulus packages as well as Employee Retention Credits and the Paycheck Protection Program.
  • For the 2021 tax season so far, the IRS has issued 96 million refunds worth $270 billion based on 136 million individual income tax returns. The agency reports that even with the challenges faced by the IRS, it performed approximately as well as in 2019—before the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Despite that performance, the IRS still has 35 million tax returns in a queue to be manually reviewed. According to the report, “The backlog includes about 16.8 million paper tax returns waiting to be processed; about 15.8 million returns suspended during processing that require further review; and about 2.7 million amended returns awaiting processing.”
  • Are you an Unpostable? If there was an error in your tax identification number or name, your return may be one of two million that are chilling in the Unpostable unit awaiting verification.
  • The IRS flags and detours returns it identifies as potentially involving stolen identities. There are approximately 2.1 million returns waiting at present for manual verification in the Taxpayer Protection Program (TPP).
  • During the 2021 tax season (roughly February to May this year) the IRS received more telephone queries than it had ever received in a full fiscal year. The report notes that the IRS was receiving about 1,500 calls per second at one point during this tax season. For calls made to the 1040 line providing help with individual returns, about one of every 100 callers ever connected with a service rep.


Ms. Collins’ report is interesting as well as informative. Bottom line? The IRS needs to work on its backlog and on modernizing its tech right along with its customer service. Those plans depend completely on that IRS budget boost we keep talking about. Stay tuned.


In Ohio or abroad, our tax attorneys provide strong representation if you face allegations involving offshore tax issues, a payroll tax dispute, or a false income tax return

From offices in Chicago and Cleveland, Robert J. Fedor, Esq., LLC offers experienced advice when you have concerns about compliance or criminal tax charges. Call 800-579-0997 or contact us today.


Understanding Tax Fraud