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IRS chief warns of refund delays, challenges as tax filing season begins

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Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig, shown during a Senate Finance Committee on June 8, warns of a "frustrating" tax season ahead. File Pool Photo by Tom Williams/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/c860f623a717510400ea56a5e384b0a9/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig, shown during a Senate Finance Committee on June 8, warns of a "frustrating" tax season ahead. File Pool Photo by Tom Williams/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 24 (UPI) -- The head of the Internal Revenue Service warned of a "frustrating" experience for U.S. taxpayers Monday as the 2022 tax filing season officially got underway.

"This could be a very frustrating filing season for all taxpayers and tax professionals," IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said during a conference call to reporters.

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Rettig warned that due to years of underfunding and personnel cutbacks at the agency, along with a mountain of tax returns still left over from previous years, efforts to get refunds out within the traditional three-week window will be hampered.

"Every person at the IRS is highly focused on this," he said. "I get that 'highly focused' doesn't direct-deposit somebody's refund, but I want you to know that the importance of this is not lost of any of us."

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Also complicating the situation are staffing shortages due to COVID-19 and the additional workload imposed by the distribution of a series of pandemic-related stimulus checks.

"I want you to know that our employees are committed to do everything possible with an all-hands-on-deck approach to get people the help that they need," Rettig said.

Monday marked the beginning of the new tax filing season, in which most taxpayers have through April 18 to file their 2021 returns. People requesting extensions have until Oct. 17 to file.

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Any delay in getting refunds into the hands of households trying to keep up with a surge in inflation and the Omicron wave of COVID-19 could put tremendous strains on family finances, some lawmakers say.

In a letter to Rettig and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sent Monday, Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., urged the administration to send out still-unpaid refunds from last year as soon as possible to avoid yet more processing delays this season.

As of Dec. 31, there were about 6 million unprocessed tax returns from 2020, he said.

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"I appreciate the IRS's efforts to address the significant backlog of unprocessed returns, and recognize the significant challenges the agency has faced in operating during the pandemic while implementing major programs such as the stimulus payments and the Advance Child Tax Credit payments," Warner wrote.

"However, persistent delays harm taxpayers who are waiting for their returns to process -- often those who need their refunds most -- and the agency has an obligation to implement a clear plan that alleviates this backlog while avoiding major delays for the processing of filed returns during the 2021 tax filing season," he said.

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