LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Katherine Adamson wants what she feels the U.S. government owes her.
The Lafayette-area single mother wants what the U.S. Treasury says she’s owed. She’s likely to end 2021 without the tax refund the Internal Revenue Service has stated, in documents mailed to her, she’s earned.
The COVID-19 pandemic slowed down every facet of the world, including the IRS. With over 1,000 calls from people in need to the agency placed per minute, the tax returns some Americans need may be on hold indefinitely.
The pandemic has shined a spotlight on the IRS. Over the past year, people have been coming across issues with their tax returns, receiving their stimulus credits, and a smorgasbord of other roadblocks. The IRS has been struggling to keep up with demand for the past decade, according to Richard Bartholomew, director of tax services at Girardot, Strauch & Co. in Lafayette.
“In 2018, (the IRS) still had the index for inflation, the same budget that they had in 2007, yet they were asked to do 30 percent more work than they were doing in 2007. So, they’re getting overburdened and they’re getting slower. They don’t have the people to keep up with the work,” said Bartholomew.
For years, the IRS has seen a significant decrease in their workforce over the past decade. In 2019, the IRS reportedly had around 94,711 full-time employees; by 2019, that number dropped down to 73,554, or a decrease of around 21% – about 21,000 workers in total.
“During this decline, the IRS has been unable to keep pace with its projected hiring, causing positions that help carry out its crucial mission of tax administration to go unfilled,” according to the National Taxpayer Advocate Objectives Report.
An epidemic of delays
When the pandemic first hit in early 2020, workers from the IRS were sent home, told that they’ll be able to go back to work in two weeks. Of course, that’s not what happened for most American workers.
While IRS workers were at home, the mail still arrived, continuing to pile up until there were about 30 million pieces of mail waiting for those workers to come back to, said Bartholomew.
These two issues contributed to delays, because not only was the IRS hurting for staff, but now they were significantly behind on work.
Around the same time, issues began to emerge as people filed their tax returns incorrectly related to stimulus checks Americans had received.
“People prepared their 2020 tax returns, and they either take credit or they don’t take credit for these payments that they’ve received, should have received, or might not have received. All sorts of problems begin to emerge because things don’t match up. Now, these people, the IRS agents have to stop and figure out, did they get a check, did they not get a check ..,” said Bartholomew.
In July of 2020, the IRS announced that the agency was behind in processing around 19 million returns. In order to troubleshoot these problems within the system, the IRS began to double-check returns. Piles of papers began to stack on top of IRS agents’ desks.
In turn, this became the biggest road block for people waiting to receive their money from the federal government.
Still waiting on her IRS refund
Adamson, a Lafayette-based, single mother of two children under the ages of 2, contacted the Journal & Courier in the fall of 2021, detailing her long battle with the IRS.
After filing her taxes on Feb. 17, 2021, just a few days after tax season began, Adamson still had not received the thousands of dollars the IRS has confirmed she’s owed.
“I got one (letter from the IRS) saying it’s a 60-day notice (for her tax returns),” Adamson said. “Then I got (another letter) on July 21. This is the last one I’ve received, and it was a 60-day notice. Obviously, the 60 days ended (Sept. 19.) I’ve tried calling them. I get either too long of a wait-call and they hang up. One time, it was a 45-minute wait just for them to tell me it was the wrong number.
“So I physically cannot get ahold of them.”
In the letters sent to Adamson, the IRS states that it has received her taxes, is currently processing her tax returns and should be refunded to her within 60 days of each of the letters. The letters have only come a few times between July through December, when monthly correspondence is expected.
“I physically got a letter stating an estimated monthly payment of $600,” Adamson said, “and then I never got it. I went onto the IRS website and it says it’s pending. They were so quick to say that if you had a kid last year, hurry up and file (your taxes). I know that they have looked at my taxes because I wasn’t getting my son’s stimulus, but after I filed and it was processed, randomly, one day, I got one of his stimulus (checks).
“So I know that they have looked at my taxes, but the last time they’ve even tried contacting me was July 21.”
According to an article from CBS News, “The enhanced Child Tax Credit (CTC) was signed into law by President Joe Biden as part of the American Rescue Plan,” CBS said on its website. “The effort increases the benefit from a $2,000 credit, taken annually when you file your taxes, to up to $3,600 per child. Half will be divided into six payments to be paid out in cash, on a monthly basis, from July through December, and the rest will be claimed on your 2021 tax return.”
The article states that parents of children under the age of 3 will receive $300 per child, per month from July 15 through Dec. 15, which could explain the one $600 check that Adamson received. That support has not been continuous throughout the months of July and December.
“It’s not like a little amount of money they owe me,” Adamson said. “They’re over like, 10 grand at this point. I just want to know if I’m getting it or when. I just want an answer.”
Margaret Christopherson is a reporter for the Journal & Courier. Email her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter @MargaretJC2
Noe Padilla is a reporter for the Journal & Courier. Email him at Npadilla@jconline.com and follow him on Twitter at 1NoePadilla.