The Real Reason Your Tax Refund from the IRS Is Late

April is the fourth month of the year. It is known for April Fool’s Day and the old saying that April showers bring May flowers. April 15 was also the day in 1912 that the mighty RMS Titanic sank in the North Atlantic. For American workers April 15 is also the day by which federal and many states income taxes must be filed.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American can now expect to pay an average of $525,037 each in taxes over the course of their lifetimes.

This year, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has extended the filing deadline to May 17.

This year according recent IRS data, the average individual return has been about $2,873, and could skew slightly higher—$2,939—for those who filed online. Taxpayers can file their tax returns electronically with an income of $72,000 or less for 2020 taxes via the IRS Free File tool. For those who made more than $72,000, there is the Free File Fillable Forms, an electronic version of the IRS paper forms.

The IRS has been working through its backlog of unprocessed returns, and the agency has already distributed a reported $210 billion to Americans as of April 16. As of This week the IRS has received around 110,960,000 federal returns and processed about 100,027,000 of those.

USA Today reported that the IRS is now holding 29 million tax returns for manual processing, which could contribute to more refund delays than are typical in a normal filing season. A number of factors have come into play including changes to the tax code, limited resources due to old technology and even a backlog of unprocessed 2019 paper tax returns.

Then there is the fact that the United States Postal Service (USPS) has been moving the mail at a snail’s pace, so that means it has taken longer for paper filings to reach the taxman, and then for any refund to reach taxpayers.

For those who have filed, but haven’t received their refund, it is now possible to check the status of a refund via the Where’s My Refund? tool. Tax filers can provide their Social Security number or ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) and check on the filing status and refund amount.

It is also important to note that the Department of Treasury’s Bureau of Fiscal Service (BFS), which issues IRS tax refunds, may reduce a refund (overpayment) and offset it to pay past-due child support; federal agency non-tax debts; state income tax obligations; or certain unemployment compensation debts owed to a state. BFS will send you a notice if an offset occurs, and the notice will reflect the original refund amount, offset amount, the agency receiving the payment, and the address and telephone number of that agency.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

Image: Reuters.