When it comes to taxes, we often think about numbers, forms, and deadlines. But have you ever wondered what happens after you hit that “Submit” button? Let’s uncover the lesser-known world of tax return processing and why it matters.

Crunching the Numbers: Tax Returns in the Thousands

In the year 2021, a whopping $263 million tax returns were filed – that’s a lot of paperwork! Surprisingly, about 10% of these were old-school paper filings, showing that not everyone has fully embraced the digital age.

However, here’s the twist: processing all these returns isn’t as speedy as we might hope. The IRS is still working through tax returns from 2020! To give you a clearer picture, there’s a backlog of around 35 million unprocessed tax returns. So, why should we care about this pileup?

The Weight of Unprocessed Returns

Dealing with millions of tax returns – especially the paper ones – is a big task. It takes a ton of time, effort, and resources. Here’s the catch: As long as the backlog exists, it pulls away resources from other important stuff the IRS does.

Think about the “Field Audit” group, the folks who make sure everyone’s playing fair with their taxes. They’re affected by this too. The more time and energy spent on sorting through the backlog, the less they can focus on their critical work.

A Number to Watch: Unpacking the Potential

Amidst all these numbers, one stands out – the number of unprocessed tax returns. It’s a crucial indicator. Why? Because if the IRS could tackle this backlog, they’d free up a lot of resources.

Imagine this: fewer resources spent on old-school paper returns means more time for sending important letters, and notices, and even doing audits more efficiently. The unprocessed backlog becomes a game-changer, unlocking new possibilities.

Looking Forward

While taxes might not be our favorite topic, understanding what goes on behind the scenes matters. The pile of unprocessed returns isn’t just a number; it’s a signal. By dealing with this backlog, the IRS can work smarter and make things better for all of us.

As we keep an eye on this number, we’re peeking into the IRS’s efforts to improve. It’s like watching a puzzle come together – the more they clear the backlog, the smoother things run. So, remember, even in the world of taxes, small changes can add up to big improvements.


Kelly Coughlin, CPA
CEO, EveryDayCPA.com


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