As Mid-Missourians complain about delayed income tax returns, the IRS isn't providing any answers.
A Jefferson City tax preparer has raised concerns about abnormally long delays in her clients' returns, but she can't get in contact with anyone at the IRS.
Jena Tyree said she has never seen a delay like this in all of her years in the tax preparation business. She has many clients who have been waiting more than three months and still haven't gotten their income tax returns, which usually takes just 21 days.
"Everyone's just at a loss, and there are no answers forthcoming," Tyree said. "It's just very frustrating."
Her calls to the IRS all receive the same response: an automated voice telling her the volume of calls is too high, then a click as the call ends, despite her access to the practitioner priority hotline.
The IRS has the "Taxpayer Bill of Rights," which it describes as a set of fundamental rights taxpayers should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. The first two are the right to be informed and the right to quality service.
"They're not getting any of that," Tyree said. "They're not informed and they're not getting any service. No information and no service."
Tyree contacted U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer's office, which helped expedite the process. Tyree said the employee who helped her said some income tax returns could take up to a year, and some from 2019 are still being dealt with.
Luetkemeyer's communications director, Georgeanna Sullivan, said hundreds of constituents have contacted the office about their backed-up tax returns.
"They are rightfully frustrated by the fact they have not gotten their money back from the government," Sullivan said.
This confirmed what Tyree was afraid was true: This wasn't an isolated event.
"There's nothing we can do," she said. "We're at a standstill."
Sullivan said the IRS didn't process paper returns during most of the pandemic due to the agency's work-from-home requirements. She said there were more than a dozen truckloads of paper returns sitting outside of the Kansas City IRS office last year that needed to be processed.
Luetkemeyer has continuously pushed for the IRS to reopen, and his office contacts the IRS daily on constituents' behalf to address any other issues that may be causing a delay, such as missing or incorrect information, Sullivan said.
Regardless of the reason, the delayed tax returns can place an additional burden on struggling Missourians who rely on the money for their livelihood.
The average IRS income tax refund is $2,784, which can have a large impact on struggling families.
"I would imagine if you're expecting a refund, you'd probably already made plans for that money," Tyree said.
Sullivan echoed the sentiment, saying, "Many families count on refunds to cover certain expenses and deserve to know when it is coming."
There were still almost 12 million income tax returns yet to be processed by the IRS as of June 4, which is about 8 percent of all returns received.
The IRS could not be reached for comment.