PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — If you’re among the millions of Americans who filed their taxes and are still awaiting a refund, a tax expert tells 12 News that unfortunately, you’ll just have to sit tight.

Last week, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began sending out payments to people who overpaid taxes on unemployment benefits. As many as 13 million people could qualify for those payments, if they filed their taxes prior to mid-March.

Hundreds of viewers have written into 12 Responds saying they filed their taxes around that time but have yet to receive the return they’re owed.

Melissa Travis, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Society of CPAs, said there’s growing concern about the number of people who filed an amended return after the Biden administration issued an unemployment tax exemption under the American Rescue Plan.

Passing along information from the IRS Communications and Stakeholders Liaison Office, Travis said, “There is no need for most taxpayers to take this action or have a CPA amend the return because the IRS put a process in place to automatically process the refunds.”

The IRS has so far issued four million refunds for overpayment compensation, according to Travis.

“The amount varies depending on many factors, but the average refund amount is $1,265,” she explained.

Travis said those who are calling to check on the status of their return or about an amended return are adding to the backlog at the IRS.

“They’re just pleading for patience,” Travis added.

She said there are three main reasons for the backlog:

  • IRS employees continuing to work remotely
  • Sending out the economic impact payments took time away from processing returns
  • There’s currently a staffing shortage

“They have had record numbers of people in retirement,” Travis said. “They had very aged staff at the IRS.”

If you filed electronically and are still waiting for your refund, Travis said the first thing you should do is double-check you got confirmation from the IRS that your tax information was accepted, either by email or text.

“We’ve seen 30% of people who are waiting for their refunds, when they filed, did not actually receive a confirmation,” she said. “That’s a great starting point for you to know that your return was actually accepted for processing by the IRS and actually is in the process.”

The IRS may also need additional information from you. In that case, the agency will send a letter.

“Don’t panic when you get that letter. That’s actually a really good thing,” Travis added. “That letter will contain the specific instructions for how you can verify whatever the IRS is looking for.”

“They’ll give you a very specific instructions on how to verify your information or how to log into the system to do that,” she continued.

According to Travis, as of July 3, the IRS had more than 16 million unprocessed individual tax returns.

If your return is being processed, Travis urged you not to submit another return or call the IRS.

“According to the National Taxpayer Advocate, technically only about 7% of the phone calls right now are being answered by the IRS,” Travis said. “I feel terrible telling people that they can’t call, because I know how frustrating it must be.”