How Long Is the IRS Currently Taking to Process Paper Returns: An Updated Timeline

Tax season is now officially over, but for many taxpayers, the process is far from over. If you filed a paper return, then you could still be waiting for that all-important refund check. Unfortunately, the IRS is known for being slow when it comes to processing paper returns. The big question on everyone’s mind is just how long it is currently taking for the IRS to process paper returns.

While electronic submissions have made it easier for the IRS to process returns, not everyone files that way. If you opted for a paper return this year, then you are probably wondering why it is taking so long for the IRS to get around to processing it. There are many reasons why paper returns take longer, including the fact that they have to be manually entered and that they are more prone to errors. But, just how long is the IRS taking to process paper returns these days?

With the pandemic changing the way the IRS is operating, it is hard to know exactly how long it will take for your paper return to be processed. But one thing is clear: the IRS is taking longer than usual to process paper returns. If you filed a paper return this year, then you may have to wait longer than you would have in the past. If you are still waiting for your refund, it may be time to start exploring other options or strategies for getting what you are owed.

Current IRS Processing Times for Paper Returns

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the IRS is experiencing delays in processing paper tax returns. As of May 2021, the agency is advising taxpayers that it could take up to 10 weeks to process a paper return. The delay is primarily due to reduced staffing levels, safety measures, and the increase in paper return submissions.

  • To check the status of your paper return, you can use the “Where’s My Refund?” tool on the IRS website. However, this tool updates once per day, usually overnight, so don’t expect real-time updates.
  • If it’s been more than 10 weeks since you filed, you can call the IRS customer service line to ask for an update on your return.
  • If you’re due a refund, but it hasn’t been processed yet, there’s nothing you need to do. You’ll receive interest on your refund if it’s issued after the April 15 deadline.

It’s important to note that e-filing your return is still the most convenient and fastest way to get a refund. The IRS typically processes e-filed returns within 21 days of acceptance, although that time frame can still vary. If you’re worried about mailing in your return, consider using certified mail to ensure it gets delivered and track it online.

For more updates on processing times, check the IRS website or follow them on social media. It’s also important to stay up to date with tax news, as the IRS may need to make changes in response to updates in tax laws and regulations.

Month Received Month Processed
January 2021 April 2021
February 2021 April 2021
March 2021 May 2021

It’s important to remember that these processing times are constantly changing, so it’s best to stay up to date with the latest information from the IRS. If you need any assistance with filing your taxes, consider hiring a tax professional or using tax software that walks you through the process step-by-step.

Factors Impacting the Processing of Paper Tax Returns

When it comes to processing paper tax returns, there are several factors that can impact the speed at which they are processed. Some of the main factors include:

  • The complexity of the return.
  • The completeness of the return.
  • The accuracy of the information on the return.

Each of these factors can significantly impact the time it takes for the IRS to process a paper tax return. For example, if a return is incomplete, the IRS may need to send a request for additional information, which can delay processing time. Similarly, if the information on the return is inaccurate, the IRS may need to spend additional time verifying the information, which can also cause delays.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Processing Times

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the ability of the IRS to process paper tax returns. Due to illness, social distancing measures, and other factors, many IRS employees have been forced to work remotely. This has made it harder for the agency to process returns in a timely manner.

According to the IRS, as of May 29, 2021, it was taking an average of 12 weeks to process a paper tax return. However, this is just an estimate and actual processing times may vary depending on a number of factors.

If you are still waiting for your paper tax return to be processed, you may want to consider filing electronically in the future. Electronic filing can help ensure that your return is processed more quickly and accurately, and can help you get your refund sooner.

The Current Processing Time for Paper Tax Returns

As mentioned earlier, the IRS estimates that it is currently taking an average of 12 weeks to process a paper tax return. However, it’s important to note that this is just an estimate and that actual processing times may vary.

Tax Year Estimated Processing Time
2020 12 weeks (as of May 29, 2021)
2019 4-6 months
2018 or earlier Processing times vary

If you have already filed a paper tax return and are still waiting for it to be processed, the best thing you can do is be patient. While it can be frustrating to wait for your refund, the IRS is doing everything it can to process returns as quickly as possible.

Delayed Tax Refunds Due to Paper Return Processing Issues

If you’re one of the approximately 10% of taxpayers who choose to submit a paper tax return instead of e-filing, you’ll likely be waiting longer to receive your tax refund this year. The IRS has reported significant delays in processing paper returns, which is largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on IRS staffing levels and processing capabilities.

  • The IRS has only been able to process about 1 million paper returns per week, compared to the 2.5 million returns it can process in a typical year.
  • As of April 30th, the IRS had a backlog of about 31 million paper returns waiting to be processed, which means that taxpayers who submitted paper returns could be waiting several months for their refunds.
  • In addition to the backlog, the IRS has also reported significant processing errors on paper returns. These errors can result in further delays in processing and issuing refunds, as the IRS may need to request additional information or clarification from taxpayers.

The Impact of Delayed Refunds

The delays in processing paper tax returns are not only frustrating for taxpayers; they can also have significant financial implications. For many taxpayers, a tax refund is a critical source of income that they rely on to pay bills, make necessary purchases, or save for the future. Delayed refunds can put additional financial strain on these taxpayers.

In addition to financial implications, delayed refunds can also cause major headaches for taxpayers who are counting on their refunds to pay down debt, make major purchases, or make necessary repairs or upgrades to their homes or vehicles.

What You Can Do If Your Refund Is Delayed

If you submitted a paper tax return and have not yet received your refund, there are a few steps you can take:

Step Description
Contact the IRS If it has been more than 21 days since you submitted your return (or more than 6 weeks for international returns), you can contact the IRS to check on the status of your refund. You can do this by calling the IRS toll-free number at 1-800-829-1040 or by using the “Where’s My Refund?” tool on the IRS website.
Be Prepared to Wait Unfortunately, there is not much you can do to speed up the processing of your paper return. You will likely need to be patient and wait for the IRS to catch up. The good news is that the IRS will pay interest on delayed refunds, so you should receive a little extra money to compensate for the delay.
Consider E-Filing in the Future If you want to avoid delays in the future, consider e-filing your tax return. E-filing is faster, more accurate, and less prone to errors than paper filing, and the IRS has been encouraging taxpayers to e-file for several years now. While there are still some situations where paper filing is necessary (such as if you’re filing an amended return), most taxpayers can benefit from e-filing.

Ultimately, the best thing you can do if your refund is delayed is to be patient and try not to stress too much. The IRS is doing the best it can under difficult circumstances, and your refund will arrive eventually, even if it takes a little bit longer than you would like.

Common Errors Made on Paper Tax Returns that Slow Processing Times

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who still file paper tax returns, it’s important to avoid common errors that can cause processing delays. Here are some of the most frequent mistakes:

  • Math errors: The IRS checks every tax return for accuracy, so even small mistakes can slow down processing times. Double-check your math and use a calculator if necessary.
  • Incorrect Social Security Numbers: Make sure all SSNs are correct, including those of dependents and spouses. An error can cause the return to be flagged for further review.
  • Missing Signatures: Both spouses must sign a joint return, and any taxpayers claiming a refund must sign their returns. Unsigned returns cannot be processed.

Filing Status Errors

The filing status you choose can have a big impact on your tax return, and mistakes can cause unnecessary delays in processing. Here are three common errors to avoid:

  • Incorrect Filing Status: This is one of the most serious errors you can make on a tax return. Always choose the right filing status, whether that’s single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household or qualifying widow(er).
  • Married Filing Separately vs. Jointly: It’s important to choose the right filing status if you’re married. In some cases, choosing “married filing separately” can result in higher tax bills and missed tax breaks.
  • Dependents: Make sure you’re claiming dependents correctly, and not claiming someone who is not eligible. This can also lead to an audit or delay in processing.

Tables and Forms

If you’re filing a paper return, you’ll need to include all the necessary forms and schedules. Here are a few common mistakes to avoid:

  • Incomplete or Missing Forms: If you’re claiming a deduction or credit, make sure you include all applicable forms and schedules.
  • Incorrect Forms: Make sure you’re using the correct form for your situation. Check the instructions carefully.
  • Wrong Tax Table: If you’re using the tax tables instead of electronic filing, make sure you’re using the correct table for your filing status and income level. Using the wrong table can cause errors and delays.
Error Type Percentage of Incorrect Returns
Math errors Less than 1%
Incorrect Social Security Numbers 1-2%
Missing Signatures Less than 1%
Incorrect Filing Status 1%
Married Filing Separately vs. Jointly Less than 1%
Dependents 1-2%
Incomplete or Missing Forms 1-2%
Incorrect Forms Less than 1%
Wrong Tax Table Less than 1%

By avoiding these common errors, you can help ensure that your paper tax return is processed as quickly as possible.

Tips for Speeding Up the Processing of Your Paper Tax Return

If you choose to file your tax return on paper, it may take longer for the IRS to process it. However, there are some tips and tricks you can use to speed up the processing time and potentially get your refund faster.

  • Complete your return in full: One of the most common reasons for delayed processing is a missing signature or a math error. Make sure to double-check your return for completeness before mailing it in.
  • Submit all necessary documents: If you need to include additional forms, schedules, or supporting documents, make sure to include them in your envelope. Failure to do so can result in additional processing time or even a rejected return.
  • Use the correct mailing address: Double-check the IRS website for the correct address to mail your return to. Using the wrong address can cause delays or even result in your return being lost in transit.

Another helpful tip is to use certified mail when mailing in your return. This can provide peace of mind knowing that your return was received by the IRS and can also be useful in case of any issues with processing or lost mail.

For a more in-depth look at the processing times for paper returns, refer to the table below.

Week Ending Date Received Processed Outstanding % Processed
January 22 2,442,000 1,830,000 612,000 75.0%
January 29 4,926,000 2,732,000 2,194,000 55.5%
February 5 7,235,000 3,096,000 4,139,000 42.7%
February 12 10,072,000 4,073,000 5,999,000 40.4%
February 19 12,728,000 6,956,000 5,772,000 54.6%

As you can see from the table, the IRS is currently processing paper returns at a rate of around 40-55%. While this may be slower than e-filing, following the tips above can help ensure a smoother and faster processing time for your paper return.

Alternatives to Paper Tax Return Filing

If you are concerned about the IRS taking a long time to process paper tax returns, consider electronically filing your return. E-filing is the fastest and most accurate way to file your taxes, and the IRS has made it easier than ever.

  • You can e-file your tax return for free if your income is less than $72,000 per year using the IRS Free File program. The program offers tax preparation software from reputable companies that will walk you through the process and file your return electronically.
  • If your income is greater than $72,000 per year, you can still e-file your tax return using commercial tax preparation software. You can purchase this software from a retailer or download it directly from the software provider’s website. While this method will cost you money, it can still save you time and improve the accuracy of your return.
  • Finally, you can hire a tax professional to prepare and file your tax return electronically. This is the most expensive option, but it may be necessary if you have a complex tax situation or if you simply prefer to have someone else handle your taxes.

If you do decide to file your tax return electronically, make sure you have all the necessary documents and information before you start. You will need your Social Security number, income statements, deduction information, and any other relevant documents. You may also need to provide information about your bank account if you want to receive your refund via direct deposit.

Keep in mind that e-filing your tax return does not guarantee an immediate refund. You can still expect to wait a few weeks for your refund to be processed and deposited into your bank account. However, electronic filing is still the fastest and most accurate way to file your taxes, and it can greatly reduce the amount of time you spend waiting for your refund to arrive.

E-Filing Benefits Paper Filing Limitations
  • Faster processing time
  • Greater accuracy
  • Immediate confirmation of filing
  • Greater convenience and flexibility
  • Ability to track refund status
  • Slower processing time
  • Greater potential for errors
  • No immediate confirmation of filing
  • Limited convenience and flexibility
  • No ability to track refund status

By opting for electronic filing, you can avoid the risk of your paper return getting lost in the mail or taking weeks to process. While paper filing may still be an option, it is becoming increasingly outdated in today’s digital age.

Implications of Processing Delays for Taxpayers and the IRS

As mentioned earlier, the delay in processing paper returns can have significant implications for both taxpayers and the IRS. Here is a closer look at what those implications are:

  • Taxpayers: The most obvious implications for taxpayers are the delayed receipt of any refunds due and the uncertainty caused by not knowing the status of their returns. According to the IRS, it can take up to six weeks to process a paper return, which means that taxpayers who file this way will have to wait longer for their refund. Additionally, since the IRS has reduced staff due to the pandemic, answering phone calls and mail is slower than usual, which can add to the frustration of taxpayers who want to check the status of their returns.
  • IRS: While the IRS is working hard to process paper returns as quickly as possible, the delay in processing has several implications for the agency. First and foremost, it means that the IRS will have to process a large backlog of returns, which can put a strain on its resources. Secondly, it means that the IRS will be slower in identifying any fraudulent returns or errors in tax filings, which can impact revenue collection in the long run.

Overall, the delay in processing paper returns is a significant issue for both taxpayers and the IRS. While taxpayers can take steps to mitigate some of the negative effects, such as filing electronically or using direct deposit for refunds, the backlog of paper returns will likely continue to be a challenge for the IRS until the pandemic subsides.

How Long Is the IRS Currently Taking to Process Paper Returns?

Q1: How long is the IRS taking to process paper returns?
As of August 2021, the IRS is currently taking up to 8 weeks to process paper returns.

Q2: Has the IRS always taken this long to process paper returns?
No, this is due to the backlog that the IRS is experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q3: Will my return be processed faster if I file electronically instead of on paper?
Yes, the IRS recommends filing electronically as it is faster and more efficient.

Q4: Is there a way to track the status of my paper return?
Yes, you can use the “Where’s My Refund?” tool on the IRS website to track the status of your return.

Q5: What should I do if it’s been longer than 8 weeks and I haven’t received my refund?
You can contact the IRS for assistance or visit a Taxpayer Assistance Center in person.

Q6: Are there any other reasons why my return might be delayed?
Yes, if there are errors or missing information on your return, it can delay the processing time.

Q7: Will the IRS notify me once my return has been processed?
Yes, the IRS will notify you through the mail once your return has been processed.

Closing Thoughts

Thank you for reading about how long the IRS is currently taking to process paper returns. If you haven’t already, consider filing your return electronically for faster processing. Remember to use the “Where’s My Refund?” tool to track the status of your return and don’t hesitate to reach out to the IRS for assistance. We hope this information was helpful and please visit us again for more updates.