IRS Operations During COVID-19: Mission-critical functions continue

We're open and processing mail, tax returns, payments, refunds and correspondence. However, COVID-19 continues to cause delays in some of our services. Our service delays include:

  • Live phone support
  • Processing tax returns filed on paper
  • Answering mail from taxpayers
  • Reviewing tax returns, even for returns filed electronically

Check this page periodically for updates.

What You Can Expect

Look on the following list for the action you took – whether that's sending us your individual or business tax return or answering a letter from us. Then, open the action to see how long you may have to wait and what to do next.

The IRS is now opening mail within normal timeframes. The IRS has also made significant progress in processing prior year returns. As of January 29, 2021, we had 6.7 million individual tax returns in the processing pipeline. For refunds that could not be issued in 2020 because the tax return is being corrected, reviewed or awaiting correspondence from a taxpayer, the refund will be issued as a paper check in 2021 per our normal processes. Taxpayers are encouraged to continue to check Where’s My Refund for their personalized refund status.

How long you may have to wait:  It depends on where you sent your tax return and where it is in the process. We are processing returns we received over the summer due to the extended July 15 tax filing due date and, in some cases, are processing tax returns dated as early as July 15, 2020. However, we are rerouting tax returns and taxpayer correspondence from locations that are behind to locations where more staff is available, and we are taking other actions to minimize any delays. Tax returns are opened in the order received. As the return is processed, it may be delayed because it has a mistake, is missing information, or there is suspected identity theft or fraud. If we can fix it without contacting you, we will. If we need more information or need you to verify that it was you who sent the tax return, we will write you a letter. The resolution of these issues depends on how quickly and accurately you respond, and the IRS staff trained and working under social distancing requirements to complete the processing of your return.

What you should do: Other than responding to any requests for information promptly, there’s no action you can take. We’re working hard to get through the backlog. Please don’t file a second tax return or contact the IRS about the status of your return.

E-filing your 2020 tax return: To e-file you will need to enter your AGI from your tax year 2019 tax return.  If your 2019 return has not yet been processed, you may enter $ 0 (zero) as your prior year Adjusted Gross Income. If you used the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here tool last year to register for an Economic Impact Payment, enter “$1” as your prior year AGI. See Claiming the Recovery Rebate Credit if you aren’t required to file a tax return.

LATEST NOTICE DELAYS — 

Because of the COVID-19 shutdown, we experienced a backlog in mailing notices. To save time and money, we didn’t generate new ones and many notices were mailed with past due payment or response dates.

We included a Notice 1052, Important! You Have More Time to Make Your Payment, as an insert. The insert provided new or updated pay or response dates. Due to an error, some notices were sent without the insert.  If you were among those who didn’t get the Notice 1052, you were sent a Letter 544 on August 7, 2020, with the appropriate information.

What you should do: Please read the insert carefully. It explains why the notice was delayed and provides a new date to pay or respond. If you got the notice, you should:

  • Review the last page of the insert to determine if there is a new due date
  • Do nothing with the notice if you’ve already taken steps to resolve the issue
  • Contact us using the phone number on the notice if you have questions. Keep in mind that phone lines are extremely busy as the IRS resumes operations

If the notice was about a balance due and you’re unable to pay, consider payment options to avoid getting additional penalties and interest.

IRS is now sending 500 series balance due notices:

Although the IRS continued to issue most agency notices, the 500 series were suspended temporarily due to COVID-19. Some taxpayers have started to receive the updated 500 series notices with current issuance and payment dates.

The 500 series includes three different types of notices that alert taxpayers about varying stages of nonpayment — the CP501, the CP503 and the CP504.

Taxpayers who are unable to pay are encouraged to consider available payment options as penalties and interest continue to accrue. Taxpayers in this situation are particularly encouraged to first review the Online Payment Agreement tool, which offers an easy way to set up a payment plan.

Penalty relief due to reasonable cause: If you were affected by the pandemic or other circumstances, we may be able to remove or reduce some penalties due to reasonable cause, but only if you tried to comply with the tax law but were unable to due to facts and circumstances beyond your control. If this applies to you and you have the necessary documentation to support your claim, call the toll-free number on your notice to request penalty relief due to reasonable cause.

See more information on reasonable cause relief.

We’re getting mail, but it’s taking us longer to process it.

How long you may have to wait: We’re processing all responses in the order we received them. While we are opening mail within our normal timeframe, processing these responses is taking longer than usual due to social distancing and resource restrictions. The exact timeframe varies depending on the type of issue. We’re sending replies to letters and notices across IRS sites where we have more staff and taking other actions to reduce any delays.

What you should do: Once you’ve answered the notice, you don’t need to answer it again. We’re working through all taxpayer replies on a first-come, first-served basis and will process your reply as of the date it was received. We appreciate your patience.

There’s a high volume of tax returns with missing schedules needed to claim or reconcile credits. We’re opening mail within our normal timeframes, but it’s taking us longer to process it.  

How long you may have to wait: We’re processing all responses in the order received. The current delay is more than 60 days. 

What you should do: If you have provided us the information, you don’t need to do it again. We’re working through all taxpayer replies on a first-come, first-served basis. We appreciate your patience.

If you mailed us a check, it may be in the backlog of unopened mail.

How long you may have to wait: We’re opening mail as quickly as possible and expect to process any checks within 60 days of their arrival.

What you should do: We’ll apply your payment on the date we received it, not the date we processed it. To avoid penalties for a late payment:

  • Don’t cancel your check

  • Make sure you have funds available to cover it

We’re forgiving Dishonored Check Penalties if your check doesn’t clear because of processing delays. This applies to payments we received starting March 1, 2020 and through December 31, 2020. Interest and other types of penalties may still apply.

See IRS.gov/payments for other ways to make a payment.

Our National Distribution Center is open with reduced staffing. We’re processing requests as quickly as we can and will ship forms and publications as they’re available.

What you should do: If you’ve already requested IRS forms or publications, do not submit a second request.

You may place new orders online at Order Forms & Publications. If you don’t have access to the internet, call 800-829-3676 to request forms by mail.

We’re processing applications for recognition of exemption for tax-exempt organizations and continue to work rulings and determinations for employee plans and closing agreements for municipal issuers.

We’re processing payments for Forms 8038-CP, Return for Credit Payments to Issuers of Qualified Bonds, on a priority basis.

Due to processing center reduced staffing, we’re working tax exemption applications and filed information returns (for example, Form 990 series) but the paper filed information returns are delayed in uploading to the Tax Exempt Organization Search tool on IRS.gov. The approved determination letters and electronic return filings are being uploaded to the Tax-Exempt Organization Search tool.

Due to site closures relating to COVID-19, we’re currently taking longer than 5 business days for approval.

How long you may have to wait: Our current timeframe for approval is approximately 25 business days. We expect to have full staffing in place soon and reduce the wait time.

What you should do: Please consider the additional approval time and plan for it. Do not submit duplicate authorizations. Duplicate filings will only cause more delays.

We’re working on a solution to accept Forms 8821 and 2848 with electronic signature images by early 2021.

We’ll temporarily allow digital signatures on certain forms that can’t be filed electronically.

What you should do: You can send us the following forms with digital signatures if they are postmarked from January 1, 2021 through June 30, 2021:

  • Form 3115, Application for Change in Accounting Method;
  • Form 8832, Entity Classification Election;
  • Form 8802, Application for U.S. Residency Certification;
  • Form 1066, U.S. Income Tax Return for Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduit;
  • Form 706, U.S. Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return;
  • Form 706-NA, U.S. Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return;
  • Form 709, U.S. Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return;
  • Form 1120-ND, Return for Nuclear Decommissioning Funds and Certain Related Persons;
  • Form 1120-RIC, U.S. Income Tax Return for Regulated Investment Companies;
  • Form 1120-C, U.S. Income Tax Return for Cooperative Associations;
  • Form 1120-REIT, U.S. Income Tax Return for Real Estate Investment Trusts;
  • Form 1120-L, U.S. Life Insurance Company Income Tax Return;
  • Form 1120-PC, U.S. Property and Casualty Insurance Company Income Tax Return;
  • Form 1128, Application to Adopt, Change or Retain a Tax Year;
  • Form 3520, Annual Return to Report Transactions with Foreign Trusts and Receipt of Certain Foreign Gifts;
  • Form 3520-A, Annual Information Return of Foreign Trust with a U.S. Owner;
  • Form 8453 series, Form 8878 series, and Form 8879 series regarding IRS e-file Signature Authorization Forms; and
  • Form 8038 series, pertaining to tax-exempt bonds.

For more information, see IRS approves temporary use of e-signatures for certain forms.

If you were an employer who reduced your tax deposits because you planned to claim the sick and family leave credits, or employee retention credit in the second quarter of 2020, you may have received a notice stating there was a Failure to Deposit Penalty for Form 941.

Why you received this: When you reported the schedule of liabilities on Form 941, the liabilities didn’t match the reduction in deposits for every pay date. When this happened, you received a Failure to Deposit Penalty on the difference.

For more information, see Failure to deposit penalties on some employers claiming new tax credits.

Other Services

COVID-19 operations and staffing limits have affected other services. Open the following actions to check our availability and processing times if you:

Our telephone support is open, both for taxpayers and tax professionals, but we’re experiencing extremely long wait times due to limited staffing.

To get help faster, try one of the following options.

IRS.gov: Our website is the best way to find answers to questions about tax law or check on your refund, tax payment or Economic Impact Payment.

  • See Let Us Help You for answers to most questions and to find general information
  • Get updates on Economic Impact Payments and other COVID-19-related issues at IRS.gov/coronavirus
  • Check the status of your Economic Impact Payment at Get My Payment

Automated phone lines: At this time, you can check  our on-line web services such as: “Get My Payment” Application and the  Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on IRS.gov for information on your Economic Impact Payment (EIP) status. You can also find guidance on how to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit (RRC) on your Form 1040 return for 2020, if you did not receive your payment. You can call  800-919-9835 for other EIP issues not covered by our FAQs.

For other issues, visit Let Us Help You to find a phone number for the office that can best answer your question.

Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs): You can get limited in-person help at our TACs, by appointment only. Appointments are available for people who need to:

  • Authenticate their identity or validate documents to file a return or apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
  • Authenticate themselves for e-Services registration purposes (applies to tax professionals)
  • Authenticate their identity because they received a notice from the IRS requesting that they do so
  • Get a Sailing Clearance for foreign travel (for resident and non-resident aliens leaving the U.S.)
  • Get help with an Economic Impact Payment
  • Make a cash payment

For an up-to-date list of TAC open locations, see Contact Your Local IRS Office. Call 844-545-5640 to make an appointment.

Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS): All in-person TAS offices are closed but TAS phone lines remain open. The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is committed to assisting taxpayers and advocating for their rights. If you meet qualifications for TAS assistance, call us at 877-777-4778 or visit Taxpayer Advocate Service - Contact Us to find your local office phone number.

We’re processing all lien releases, certificates of discharge and other lien issues normally.

How long you may have to wait: We’re assigning them within 10 days.

What you should do: Use the E-Fax line for our Advisory Consolidated Receipts (ACR) site (844-201-8382) for requests such as:

  • Discharge of property from the federal tax lien
  • Withdrawal of the notice of the federal tax lien
  • Subordination of the federal tax lien

See Publication 4235, Collection Advisory Group Numbers and Addresses PDF for more information on the process for submitting applications for lien certificates, and related topics.

Appeals is not conducting in-person conferences until further notice. Until then, Appeals will conduct conferences by telephone or by videoconference.

What you should do: An Appeals employee will contact you to schedule a conference in your case.  If you have already been contacted by an Appeals employee, direct any questions you have to that employee. 

How long you may have to wait: The amount of time you may have to wait to have your case heard in Appeals varies, but once you are contacted by an Appeals employee, you can help resolve your case timely by submitting all required information and scheduling a telephone conference or videoconference with the Appeals employee. If you have not yet been contacted by an Appeals employee, but you have requested that your case be sent to Appeals, you may contact us at 559-233-1267 to determine if your case has been assigned to an Appeals employee.  Leave a message with your name and identifying number and we’ll research the status of the case.

The Office of Chief Counsel continues to resolve cases prior to trial and to litigate other cases. The U.S. Tax Court recently issued Spring calendars setting cases for virtual trials throughout the country, using Zoom for Government.

On November 20, 2020, the Tax Court shut down its e-filing platform while it brings online DAWSON, its new case management system. The Tax Court will not serve petitions until DAWSON is available on or about December 28, 2020. 

While Counsel isn’t meeting with you or your representative face-to-face, our attorneys are available to discuss cases by telephone and meet by videoconference. Counsel has also expanded our virtual settlement days and is preparing to pilot a national settlement day event.

How long you may have to wait: The amount of time you may have to wait for resolution varies, but you may resolve your case quickly by settling prior to trial.

What you should do: If your case is docketed in the Tax Court, call the attorney assigned to your case. You can find that information on the document you received with the title “Answer.” Look in the signature block. Counsel attorneys can discuss your case by telephone or arrange a call using Zoom for Government.

If you’ve filed a petition with the Tax Court, but have been notified of an assessment by the IRS, you may email taxcourt.petitioner.premature.assessment@irs.gov and include:

  • A copy of the petition and
  • The notice of deficiency you received from the IRS

IRS Enforcement and Compliance Operations

Our offices have resumed many other operations.

We’re resuming normal operations. However, there is a backlog, and we’re working to reduce the inventory.

As we begin to resume compliance activities, our operations are affected in different ways. While we resume these critical tax administration responsibilities, we’re considering the health and safety of taxpayers and our employees.

We’ve issued the following memos that cover a variety of issues for the tax professional community:

We’ll continue working cases where a statute of limitation is pending. In some of these situations, we’ll work with you or your representative to get an extension of the statute.