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Filing Tax Returns and Making Tax Payments: Best Practices During the Pandemic and Beyond

February 3, 2022

With staffing shortages and service center closures, it should come as no surprise that the IRS has faced a number of challenges during the pandemic. A couple of the biggest challenges have been in the opening and processing of taxpayer correspondence and in the processing of tax returns. As National Taxpayer Advocate, Erin Collins, stated in her Annual Report to Congress, “Paper is the IRS’s Kryptonite, and the IRS is buried in it.”

Going into 2022, the IRS has a significant backlog of unprocessed taxpayer correspondence and unprocessed returns. The estimates are staggering.

  • Five million pieces of unprocessed taxpayer correspondence
  • Over 11 million unprocessed tax returns, including:
    • Six million individual income tax returns
    • 2.3 million amended individual tax returns
    • 2.8 million business returns (income tax and employment tax returns)

The 2022 tax filing season, which opened on Thursday, January 24 for individual income tax returns, has the potential to create even more challenges for the IRS. Below is a list of best practices taxpayers can follow to ensure timely processing of their payments, tax returns, and claims for refund. These practices apply to individuals and required filing for businesses.

  • File returns and make payments electronically.
  • If you must file a paper return or mail in a payment to the IRS, send the return or payment to the proper address via USPS Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested. Using this method will assist in resolving timely filing and/or timely payment penalties assessed by the IRS.
  • Properly notate your tax payment and include the form number, tax period and your social security number or employer identification number.
  • Respond to notices from the IRS in a timely manner. 

In addition to the above, the IRS has offered a few filing tips for individuals.

  • Fastest refunds by e-filing, avoiding paper returns: Filing electronically with direct deposit and avoiding a paper tax return is more important than ever to avoid refund delays. If you need a tax refund quickly, do not file on paper – use software, a trusted tax professional or IRS Free File.
  • Filing 2021 tax return with 2020 tax return still in process: For those whose tax returns from 2020 have not yet been processed, 2021 tax returns can still be filed. For those in this group filing electronically, here’s a critical point: taxpayers need their Adjusted Gross Income, or AGI, from their most recent tax return at time of filing. For those waiting on their 2020 tax return to be processed, make sure to enter $0 (zero dollars) for last year’s AGI on the 2021 tax return. Visit Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return for more details.

More individual filing tips from the IRS can be found here.

If you have unpaid taxes or unfiled returns, you need an experienced tax attorney to represent you in your dealings with the IRS or the Department of Justice. An accountant or enrolled agent is not protected by attorney-client privilege. Please contact Eric Nemeth of Varnum’s Tax Practice Team with any questions.

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