The problem is centered around paper tax returns

Portland, Oregon, USA - Jan 7, 2020: Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return for year 2019.
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The slowdown is plaguing Americans who filed their tax returns on paper forms, instead of electronically.

"The IRS is not currently able to process individual paper returns," the agency says in a June 8 update, explaining that its tax centers around the U.S. remain closed until further notice because of COVID-19 concerns.

The tax agency also has been preoccupied lately with getting out those stimulus checks. More than 159 million "economic impact payments" have been distributed, totaling about $267 billion, the IRS says.

Since April, officials have been urging taxpayers to file electronically, "to support social distancing and speed the processing of tax returns, refunds and payments." Paper returns won't be dealt with until the IRS processing centers reopen — and there's been no word on when that might happen.

The agency also warns that live assistance by telephone is "extremely limited" because of the closures. If you're determined to call and potentially spend hours on hold, be sure to download an app that'll allow you to make money taking surveys and watching videos as you sit praying that someone will pick up sometime.

Taxpayers are being directed to resources on the IRS website where they might find information they're looking for.

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What to do if your refund is late

Fountain pen in human hand marking days on calendar. Focus on calendar.
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One of those resources is the IRS "Check My Refund Status" tool, which may be able to tell you where your money is.

The IRS says it has already processed about 90.6 million tax refunds this year averaging $2,770 each.

Recipients may have used the money to cover expenses, pay down debt, make splurge purchases, or maybe buy something practical, like life insurance.

The number of refunds is down from about 103.6 million at this time last year, but returns submitted to the tax agency are lagging, too — because taxpayers have been given more time to file. The usual April 15 deadline has been extended to July 15 this year due to the coronavirus crisis.

If you've filed using a paper return and have been waiting, waiting, waiting for your refund, basically all you can do is wait some more until the IRS is able to process the paper forms again.

But the agency says whatever you do, don't file your taxes a second time, and don't write to the IRS to ask about the status of your return. What's implied is that you won't get anywhere.

In her letter, Congresswoman Luria says many IRS employees are doing the best job they can using antiquated equipment — but that's not good enough.

"Taxpayers are counting on prompt receipt of their refunds to help make ends meet in this time of economic uncertainty," she writes.

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About the Author

Doug Whiteman

Doug Whiteman

Former Editor-in-Chief

Doug Whiteman was formerly the editor-in-chief of MoneyWise. He has been quoted by The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and CNBC.com and has been interviewed on Fox Business, CBS Radio and the syndicated TV show "First Business."

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