‘It’s an absolute mess’: Millions of Americans still waiting for 2019 federal tax refunds

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CLEVELAND (WJW)- While many are already filing their 2020 tax returns, millions of Americans are still waiting for their 2019 refunds.

“I tried the Youngstown office. I tried the Cleveland office. I tried the national office; you end up getting a recording,” said Bill Meadors of Newton Falls. “It’s been frustrating, to say the least.”

Meadors  says he has not been able to speak to anyone at the IRS and has been waiting since last March for his 2019 tax refund.  He finally reached out to his local congressman’s office for help.

“I called Congressman Tim Ryan’s office for help and his staff member,  Jason Miller,  has been working hard for me, but so far I am still waiting,” Meadors told the Fox 8 I-Team.

Bill Meadors talks to the FOX 8 I-Team’s Peggy Gallek

 Ryan says Meadors is not alone.

“This has been a nightmare,” Ryan said.  “We now have four staffers working to handle all the calls. We even brought a person back from retirement.  We really want to make sure  our constituents have somebody advocating for them.”

The IRS confirmed that as of January 29 there were 6.7 million individual tax returns in the  “processing pipeline.” 

An IRS spokesperson says the backlog is a result of office shutdowns implemented because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 During congressional testimony Tuesday the IRS commissioner said “about 5 million of those returns will require the IRS to communicate with the taxpayer to process,” due to issues like possible I.D. theft, document mismatch, or unsigned returns.

The I-Team asked an IRS spokesperson what people can do to help get their 2019 returns processed.  We received an email  back that included a statement that is on the IRS website.

“Other than responding to any requests for information promptly, there’s no action you can take,” the statement reads in part.  “We’re working hard to get through the backlog. Please don’t file a second tax return or contact the IRS about the status of your return.”

Congressman Ryan says no one seems to know when the 2019 returns will be completed.

“The people at the IRS  are drinking out of a firehose right now,” Ryan said.  “It’s an absolute mess.”

Ryan added that in order to avoid any issues with the IRS moving forward, he  strongly recommends that everyone file their 2020 returns online.

Those without internet or  those who need assistance filing their taxes electronically should reach out to the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program which is a free service for many.

He also said that AARP  offers many helpful resources for seniors.

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