IRS Cashed My Check but Says I Never Filed a Return
February 15, 2021 1:30 PM   Subscribe

Last year I filed and paid my taxes on time as usual. I mailed the return via USPS. The IRS immediately cashed my check. However, my 2020 e-filed return was just rejected, and when I started investigating on the IRS's website I discovered they show I did not file a 2019 return. What's my next step here?

posted by something something to Work & Money (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What's my next step here?

Call them. Their phone service is surprisingly good. The perception of the IRS as being a bunch of faceless bureaucrats is highly misplaced. They are a very effective organization, with a particularly good customer service division.
posted by saeculorum at 1:32 PM on February 15 [20 favorites]

Came to say what saeculorum said. Call them. Tell them what you told us. They are well trained and reasonable on the phone. If they do not know the answer, they direct you to the person that can or where to find the info.
posted by AugustWest at 1:41 PM on February 15

The IRS has made similar mistakes for many taxpayers in 2020. A bad year for them as well as for the rest of us. But they will work on getting it fixed.

If a call to the local office does not work, use this URL:
posted by yclipse at 2:28 PM on February 15 [1 favorite]

I work with the IRS all the time and I am now certain the checks and tax forms are handled completely separately. They always cash checks the second they arrive but can take weeks/months to process tax forms, so the two functions don't actually work hand-in-hand.

I second all of the other commenters about calling.
posted by dngrangl at 3:08 PM on February 15

Did you file single or jointly? This happened to me a couple years ago where my spouse and I filed jointly and his name came before mine on the return, so when I sent in our tax payment it was cashed but not categorized under our return because they were looking for a payment in his name. I talked to a nice person on the phone who fixed it, although it took a couple months to stop getting nastygrams in the mail from the IRS.
posted by rogerroger at 5:42 PM on February 15

We had this issue. My spouse got a notice saying that his withholding was being frozen at maximum because of underwitholding, despite the fact that we do carefully-calculated quarterly payments due to our unpredictable hours. He called the IRS (and sat on hold for, literally, and I do not mean figuratively, hours). When he finally got a person they were very helpful and said that their system claimed we hadn't filed a 2019 return, even though she could see our check was cashed. She said that they were very backlogged on processing returns and did whatever was needed to fix it. And all it took was a day of time and a lot of mental anguish!
posted by LadyOscar at 8:58 PM on February 15

(Following up to add, we also filed on paper. I suspect this contributed to our return being processed last, but seriously, their system needs to have a flag for "we got their money and presumably their return, even if we haven't processed it"!)
posted by LadyOscar at 9:01 PM on February 15

FWIW, checks and forms are handled separately. I used to work temp (decades ago) and one day we were sent to IRS's local mail processing center where our job basically is to remove stuff from envelope (already sliced open via autocutter on top edge), verify the amount on check matches the estimated quarterly tax returns, put them in separate piles, make sure the check is made out to IRS (technically it's Dept of Treasury). We had to separate the stuff that has actual returns (people using wrong address), stuff meant for Franchise Tax Board (this is in California, and FTB is the state tax agency, and yes, people confuse the two all the time), anything that contains a letter (weird sob stories from why they can't pay, sometimes scribbled on notebook paper) and put those into separate piles. Supervisors will come by periodically to check and/or remove some of the "other" piles for separate processing.

So yes, your check was separated from you return, and after that your return disappeared into the processing void. Nothing else to be done other than to file your copy, with a letter "It was mailed on on _____ with check ##### for amount of $$$$$ which was deposited on _____ according to my bank. So you did receive it but lost it. Please don't charge me any penalties. "
posted by kschang at 11:16 PM on February 15

By the way, the IRS is falling apart due to chronic underfunding. This propublica article looks into a situation exactly like yours, and links to additional articles that explain more about what is going on.
posted by rockindata at 4:31 AM on February 16 [1 favorite]

Questions regarding unprocessed checks or returns should be directed to 800-829-1040 or your local IRS taxpayer advocate. Always keep copies of returns filed and checks sent. Paper checks unless they signify the specific tax year they are sent for are processed and used to pay the least recent tax debt so filing a return and sending a payment in together isnt always the same transaction. I work for the IRS and am instructed never to answer taxpayer questions unless they are on my desk. This is to keep within confidentiality and not give incorrect information. But no the IRS is not currently falling apart.
posted by The_imp_inimpossible at 4:02 PM on February 16

We got a letter last summer (2020) that the IRS did have my mother 2019 tax return. We sent in a new copy. The green "return receipt" postcard did not get back to us until October. Early November, we got a more threatening letter about her failure to file a 2019 return. My tax accountant called the IRS and all they could suggest is that we send it all again along with the documentation that it had been sent already. They are seriously, seriously backlogged but the system doesn't take that into account.
posted by metahawk at 11:06 PM on February 17

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