Two clients asked me about their tax refunds this week. Both had filed several weeks ago, and each had received their state refunds. Neither had received their federal refunds. With the IRS phone lines for practitioners now working (albeit with a reduced staff), I called the IRS for both clients.

The first client’s return was filed at the end of March. The helpful IRS phone agent told me there was a ‘processing error’ with her return, and the problem is normally resolved within one to four days by the “Error Resolution Department.” Unfortunately, that departments isn’t working right now, so her return (and likely hundreds or thousands of others) is waiting for the IRS Service Centers that process returns to reopen.

The second client filed just one week later; their return simply hasn’t been processed. Yes, it was electronically filed, but for some unknown reason it’s sitting in a queue (virtually, I suppose) waiting for some IRS employee to hit “Run.” Again, with no IRS employees working in the Service Centers right now that return could be processed today or a month from today or months from today.

My suspicion is that IRS Service Centers will reopen in June, and that the unprocessed returns and returns waiting for error resolution will be resolved then. On the other hand, if you have to mail a tax return that return will be processed sometime. I have a couple of 2016 returns that had to be mailed, and I told my clients I expect they’ll be processed by year-end.

I’m not optimistic about correspondence sent to the IRS. I have two correspondence audits and several other open issues with the IRS. In good times the IRS can takes many weeks to answer the mail; I’ll be thrilled if I receive responses by October.

Everyone needs to have some patience. This isn’t the choice of the IRS, and they want to resolve all the issues, too.


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