Federal tax refund delay unacceptable to some, who say IRS should have adapted to pandemic by now

CHICAGO -- Dozens of people said they filed their taxes months ago, but haven't received their refunds. It usually takes the IRS about 21 days to issue tax refunds, but the delay this year mirrors the delays in 2020. But the people who reached out to the ABC7 I-Team said they're counting on that money.

Elaine and Stuart, who did not want to share their name, said their money just says pending, pending, pending and they've had enough. They've been waiting for their tax refund for nearly three months.

They said the refund is a sizeable one, and as senior citizens they want the money they feel they're owed after many, many years of paying taxes.

Dozens have reached out with similar complaints. Cheryl Ondratschek said she filed her taxes electronically in February.

"Ten days came and passed and then it was two weeks. Then it was three weeks. Then it was a month. Now it's two months going on three months," she said. "That just doesn't make sense on a return that had nothing unusual. Nothing fancy no stocks involved. Pretty straightforward."

Similar complaints came in 2020 from people across the Chicago area who had to wait months to receive their refund. Elaine said the IRS should have resolved its issues by now.

"Pandemic is not an excuse anymore," she said. "Stores are opening, grocery stores have gotten their act together, why can't the government get their act together."

IRS spokesperson Luis Garcia said most refunds are being processed in 21 days and there could be a number of reasons for delayed refunds, including missing documents, incorrect W-2 or 1099 forms, or fraud. But Garcia also admitted the agency is swamped because of stimulus payments and COVID-19 challenges.

"Remember, we're operating under the same COVID restrictions in 50 states just like everyone else and some of our processing centers have to follow a health and safety protocol to ensure the health and safety of our workers," he said. "There's a lot of tax law changes that have come through, there's the stimulus payments that have to be processed in a way that is efficient and avoids fraud and we've had 10 straight years of budget cuts so that may have something to do with it as well."

But Elaine and Stuart don't want excuses; they just want their money, now.

The IRS said COVID-19 continues to cause delays in some of its services, including live phone support. But the people we spoke to say we've been in a pandemic for more than a year now, and it's time for the agency to fix what they call a big problem.
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