While these errors are mostly clerical, the IRS is required to contact the taxpayer to resolve the problem and issue a correction, which creates a backlog.
The IRS has received over 59 million tax returns and has processed 56.8 million, as of March 1, according to IRS filing statistics. While this backlog is on par with previous years, Olson says it could be due to the government shutdown in December and January and may resolve itself as tax season continues.
“Some of the employees were in training so they weren't able to handle the the returns that were coming in,” Olson says. “You can then look and say ‘That's a consequence of this shutdown.’”
In addition to mistakes, the updated IRS withholding calculator has tripped up some people. Olson says it took her several hours to figure out her own withholdings. After doing her taxes on her own using the new W4 form and the IRS withholding calculator, she was able to file, but it was not an easy process.
For taxpayers who are expecting a refund this year, there is some good news: more than 46 million people are expected to get an average refund of $3,068. That’s up from last year’s average refund of $3,048, according to IRS filing statistics.
If you’re not getting a refund this year, Olson reminds taxpayers the law was originally designed to provide less of a refund and more money throughout the year instead.
“[Taxpayers] are looking at it like, ‘I counted on this refund to do this cruise or to put a downpayment on a new car and I have a hard time saving during the year,” Olson says. “I personally think that that focus on the refund number is a little bit of a red herring, and I really am holding that I do not know what we're going to see out of this filing season until the returns are in.”