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 opening mail within normal timeframes and all paper and electronic individual refund returns received prior to April 2021 have been processed if the return had no errors or did not require further review. As of October 16, 2021, we had 7.1 million unprocessed individual returns. Unprocessed individual returns include tax year 2020 returns with errors and those returns requiring special handling such as those that require correction to the Recovery Rebate Credit amount or validation of 2019 income used to figure the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC). This work does not require us to correspond with taxpayers but does require special handling by an IRS employee so, in these instances, it is taking the IRS more than 21 days to issue any related refund and in some cases this work could take 90 to 120 days. The IRS is having to correct significantly more errors on tax returns than in previous years. The IRS has reduced the number of returns requiring special handling from an historical high of 9.8 million on May 1, 2021 to the current level of 505,000 individual returns as of October 16, 2021. If a correction is made to any RRC, EITC or ACTC claimed on the return, the IRS will send taxpayers an explanation. Taxpayers are encouraged to continue to check Where’s My Refund? for their personalized refund status and can review Tax Season Refund Frequently Asked Questions.

How long you may have to wait: The IRS understands the importance of timely processing of tax returns and refund issuance. We have processed all error free refund returns received prior to April 2021 and continue to work the returns that need to be manually reviewed due to errors.  We are continuing to reroute 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 and processed in the order received. As the return is processed, whether it was filed electronically or on paper, it may be delayed because it has a mistake including errors concerning the Recovery Rebate Credit, 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 could take 90 to 120 days depending on how quickly and accurately you respond, and the ability of IRS staff trained and working under social distancing requirements to complete the processing of your return.

What you should do: In most instances, no further action is needed but you may check Where’s my refund or you can view your account. If you filed electronically and received an acknowledgement, you do not need to take any further action other than promptly responding to any requests for information. If you filed on paper, check Where’s my refund? If it tells you we have received your return or are processing or reviewing it, we are processing your return, but it may be under review. 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.

Status of Processing Form 1040-X, Amended Individual Tax Return: As of October 16, 2021, we had 2.7 million unprocessed Forms 1040-X. We are processing these returns in the order received and working hard to get through the inventory. The current timeframe can be more than 20 weeks instead of up to 16. Please don't file a second tax return or contact the IRS about the status of your amended return. Taxpayers should continue to check Where's My Amended Return? for the most up to date processing status available.

Status of Processing Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return: The IRS is now opening mail within normal timeframes. As of October 20, 2021, we had 291,000 unprocessed Forms 941. 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. If you filed electronically and received an acknowledgement, you do not need to take any further action other than promptly responding to any requests for information. 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.

As of October 20, 2021, our total inventory of unprocessed Forms 941-X was approximately 373,000 which cannot be processed until the related 941s are processed.  While not all these returns involve a COVID credit, the inventory is being worked at two sites (Cincinnati and Ogden) that have trained staff to work possible COVID credits.

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.

The IRS is opening and processing Form W-7s as quickly as possible despite social distancing requirements. We are currently processing Form W-7s that were received the first week of June 2021. We are taking every action to minimize delays, and we are processing requests in the order they were received. The taxpayer will be notified once the ITIN is assigned or if additional information is needed. Original identification documents that are submitted with the Form W-7 will be returned to the taxpayer at the mailing address of record as quickly as possible. The associated tax return will then be submitted for processing.

Other than responding to any requests for information promptly, there is no action the taxpayer should take. They should not file a second Form W-7 or tax return or contact the IRS about the status of their Form W7 or their return. Eligible taxpayers who need to obtain or renew an ITIN may submit Form W-7 and the related tax return and documentation now if they have not previously filed. Please refer to the Instructions for Form W-7 for eligibility requirements.

You will receive notification that your case has been resolved. This is generally within 120 days, but due to extenuating circumstances caused by the pandemic our identity theft inventories have increased and on average it is taking about 250 days to resolve identity theft cases. The IRS takes identity theft seriously and is committed to resolving identity theft cases as quickly as possible. We are taking steps to reduce this timeframe to 120 days or less.

Due to the lingering effects of COVID-19, we continue to experience inventory backlogs and processing times longer than the normal 90-day statutory period.

How long you may have to wait: Currently, we cannot provide a timeframe. Submissions are processed in the order in which they are received. We apologize for the delay, and we are working hard to reduce the inventory as quickly as we can.

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

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 the lingering effects of COVID-19, we continue to experience inventory backlogs resulting in  significantly long wait times.

How long you may have to wait: Currently, we cannot provide a timeframe. Submissions through mail, fax, or online submission platform are processed in the order in which they are received. We apologize for the delay, and we are working hard to reduce the inventory as quickly as we can.

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

Forms 8821 and 2848 with an electronic signature may be submitted online.
 

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 August 28, 2020 through December 31, 2021:

  • Form 11-C, Occupational Tax and Registration Return for Wagering
  • Form 637, Application for Registration (For Certain Excise Tax Activities)
  • Form 706, U.S. Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return
  • Form 706-A, U.S. Additional Estate Tax Return
  • Form 706-GS(D), Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax Return for Distributions
  • Form 706-GS(D-1), Notification of Distribution from a Generation-Skipping Trust
  • Form 706-GS(T), Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax Return for Terminations
  • Form 706-QDT, U.S. Estate Tax Return for Qualified Domestic Trusts
  • Form 706 Schedule R-1, Generation Skipping Transfer Tax
  • Form 706-NA, U.S. Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return
  • Form 709, U.S. Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return
  • Form 730, Monthly Tax Return for Wagers
  • Form 1066, U.S. Income Tax Return for Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduit
  • Form 1120-C, U.S. Income Tax Return for Cooperative Associations
  • Form 1120-FSC, U.S. Income Tax Return of a Foreign Sales Corporation
  • Form 1120-H, U.S. Income Tax Return for Homeowners Associations
  • Form 1120-IC DISC, Interest Charge Domestic International Sales – Corporation Return
  • Form 1120-L, U.S. Life Insurance Company Income Tax Return
  • Form 1120-ND, Return for Nuclear Decommissioning Funds and Certain Related Persons
  • Form 1120-PC, U.S. Property and Casualty Insurance Company Income Tax Return
  • Form 1120-REIT, U.S. Income Tax Return for Real Estate Investment Trusts
  • Form 1120-RIC, U.S. Income Tax Return for Regulated Investment Companies
  • Form 1128, Application to Adopt, Change or Retain a Tax Year
  • Form 2678, Employer/Payer Appointment of Agent
  • Form 3115, Application for Change in Accounting Method
  • 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 4421, Declaration – Executor’s Commissions and Attorney’s Fees
  • Form 4768, Application for Extension of Time to File a Return and/or Pay U.S. Estate (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Taxes
  • Form 8038, Information Return for Tax-Exempt Private Activity Bond Issues
  • Form 8038-G, Information Return for Tax-Exempt Governmental Bonds
  • Form 8038-GC Information Return for Small Tax-Exempt Governmental Bond Issues, Leases, and Installment Sales
  • Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions
  • Form 8453 series, Form 8878 series, and Form 8879 series regarding IRS e-file Signature Authorization Forms and
  • Form 8802, Application for U.S. Residency Certification
  • Form 8832, Entity Classification Election
  • Form 8971, Information Regarding Beneficiaries Acquiring Property from a Decedent
  • Form 8973, Certified Professional Employer Organization/Customer Reporting Agreement
  • Elections made pursuant to Internal Revenue Code section 83(b)

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 and extraordinarily high call volumes.

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, Economic Impact Payment, or Advanced Child Tax Credit.

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.

You also can check our on-line web services such as: “Child Tax Credit Update Portal” Application and the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on IRS.gov for information on your Advanced Child Tax Credit status. You can call 800- 908-4184 for other Advanced Child Tax Credit 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 in-person help at our TACs, by appointment only. Appointments are available for people who need to:

  • Authenticate their identity documents when applying for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
  • Authenticate themselves for e-Services registration purposes (applies to tax professionals)
  • Authenticate their identity when unable to do so online to get help with:  
    • Economic Impact Payment
    • Advance Child Tax Credit
    • Identity Protection Identification Number (IP PIN), or
    • Because they received a notice from the IRS requesting that they schedule an appointment
  • Get a Departing Alien Clearance (Sailing Permit) 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.

The majority of compliance operations are already running normally after being suspended to provide pandemic-related relief during the People First Initiative April 1, 2020 through July 15, 2020. However, the IRS kept its systemic and automated lien and levy programs idle since April 2020. With the recent progress the country has made in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic, economic activity is returning to normal. Therefore, IRS plans to return to its normal collection casework processes later this summer to support integrity of the nation’s tax system.

Balance due Notices are generally automatically sent to taxpayers after the tax filing deadline to those the IRS believes has a tax bill. Beginning June 15, 2021, the IRS expects to begin following up with taxpayers who failed to respond to prior notices. Taxpayers (some with 2020 and/or 2019 tax liabilities) will be notified that they have 30 days (45 if out of the country) to respond or pay their tax bills. Taxpayers who fail to respond to these additional letters could be subject to levies or Notice of Federal Tax Lien filings beginning Aug. 15, 2021. 

  •  Notifications to the Department of State (DOS) to exercise their authority to revoke the passports of taxpayers with seriously delinquent tax debt that they fail to pay will resume on July 15, 2021. We resumed certifying tax debt as seriously delinquent to the U.S. State Department in mid-March 2021. (Being certified to the State Department prevents a taxpayer from renewing or obtaining a new passport).
    • Automated levies in coordination with other state and federal agencies including:
      • Federal Payment Levy Program (FPLP), State Income Tax Levy Program (SITLP), and the Municipal Tax Levy Program (MTLP) – start July 15, 2021
      • Alaskan Permanent Fund Dividend Program (AKPFD) – start August 15, 2021
  • Balance due notices (including final notices) will start being mailed by the Automated Collection System (ACS) in June 2021.  Systemic levies and Notice of Federal Tax Liens to be issued starting August 15, 2021, if taxpayers fail to pay, establish a payment plan, or reach agreement with the IRS that the taxes are uncollectible.

The IRS is resuming programming for notifying the State Department of taxpayers certified as owing seriously delinquent tax debt following the temporary suspension of certain collection activities with the March 25, 2020, People First Initiative announcement in response to COVID-19. Beginning the week of March 14, affected taxpayers will receive notices and are encouraged to pay what they owe or enter into a payment agreement with the IRS to avoid putting their passports in jeopardy. 

Affected taxpayers generally owe the IRS more than $54,000 in back taxes, penalties and interest for which the IRS has filed a Notice of Federal Tax Lien and the period to challenge it has expired, or the IRS has issued a levy. As of December 2020, taxpayers previously certified owe on average more than $200,000 in outstanding tax debt, often extending back more than 6 years. The great majority of these are pre-pandemic liabilities and are considered a priority for the IRS due to the amount owed and length of time the taxpayers have been delinquent without working with the IRS to resolve their debts. Per the law, the State Department generally will not renew their passport or issue a new passport after receiving this certification from the IRS, and in some cases may revoke the passport. 

IRS offers a number of programs to help taxpayers meet their tax obligations including payment agreements, Offers in Compromise, and, if the IRS determines a taxpayer cannot pay any of their tax debt, a temporary delay of the collection process. When the tax liability is paid in full, the taxpayer has been found to be currently not collectible, or the taxpayer has entered into an installment agreement or has a pending Offer in Compromise, the tax debt is no longer considered to be seriously delinquent and the certification to the State Department is reversed. 

  • Payment agreements. Taxpayers can ask for a payment plan with the IRS by filing Form 9465 . Taxpayers can download this form from IRS.gov and mail it along with a tax return, bill or notice. Some taxpayers can use the online payment agreement  application to set up a monthly payment agreement without having to speak to the IRS by phone.  
     
  • Some taxpayers may qualify for an Offer in Compromise , an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that settles the tax liability for less than the full amount owed. The IRS looks at the taxpayer’s income and assets to decide the taxpayer’s ability to pay. Taxpayers can use the Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier tool to help them decide whether they’re eligible for an Offer in Compromise. 
     
  • The IRS may temporarily delay the collection process by reporting the account as currently not collectible, if it determines a taxpayer is unable to pay any of their tax debt. To request a temporary delay of the collection process, taxpayers should contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 or call the phone number on their bill or notice. 

The denial of passports webpage has more information about the revocations because of unpaid taxes.

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.