The IRS announces that the end is in sight for backlogged 2021 tax returns. As of June 10th, the agency reported that they had processed 4.5 million of the 4.7 million individual paper tax returns received last year. The IRS now anticipates completing all 2021 returns by the end of June. Additionally, the majority of tax returns filed this year have reportedly been processed, resulting in about $298 in refunds. IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig confirmed that the agency will finish its 2022 backlog by the end of this calendar year.
The IRS has struggled tremendously during the COVID-19 pandemic due to staffing shortages, numerous changes to the tax code, and a larger-than-expected number of paper tax returns. As a point of comparison, the agency currently has more than twice as many unprocessed returns as they would in an average year, but agents have also processed almost a million more returns than they normally would have by this time.
The House Appropriations Committee is advocating for a $1 billion increase to the IRS’ budget, enabling the agency to hire an additional 4,000 contact representatives to assist taxpayers and investment in new technologies. Recently-introduced technology has enabled tax examiners to correct 180 to 240 tax returns per hour, compared to an average of 70 returns last filing season.
The enhanced child tax credit finds ongoing support from racial justice organizations. A coalition of 40 groups—such as the Economic Security Project, the NAACP, and UnidosUS—have come together to petition for the reinstatement of the enhanced version of this credit. A letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer emphasizes the impact these monthly payments had on reducing child poverty, an issue that has only been exacerbated by recent inflation.
The child tax credit was increased to $3,000 or $3,600 per child (depending on their age) as part of the American Rescue Plan. Eligible families received monthly payments for the latter half of 2021 and could also qualify for a tax refund this year. The credit also became fully refundable, which meant that families who did not have to file a tax return due to low income could still receive these checks. That aspect alone extended the benefit to 27 million children, including half of Black and Latino children who would have previously been ineligible for the full amount. When the enhancements were not renewed at the end of 2021, the credit reverted back to its original state as a $2,000 non-refundable payment.
Now at the midpoint of 2022, about half of low-income families are unable to afford enough food for their families, according to a recent survey. Advocates for the enhanced child tax credit are emphasizing the need to make the credit fully refundable and to preserve the monthly payment method to better meet the needs of struggling families.