To think, in a past life, I used to do OTHER people's taxes for fun!
July 30, 2021 7:18 PM   Subscribe

I am catching up on three years of tax returns but would like to get 2020 done ASAP. How should I proceed given the insane backlog at the IRS?

The whole gory timeline (thanks in advance!):
I filed my 2018 taxes on time and later realized that I mixed up something with my retirement contributions. It may impact the basis for determining taxable amounts in the future but didn't change the bottom line for 2018 so I put off amending it until I needed to in order to file my 2019 returns.

Well #2020 happened and neither my 2018 amendment nor my 2019 taxes got done. I wasn't worried about late penalties (I always set my withholdings to get a small refund) so I figured I'd get around to them eventually. 'Eventually' ended up being another year/tax season later. I recently mailed off my 2018 amendment just in time for it to get caught in the worst of the backlog at the IRS. I think I'm going to have to mail in my 2019 return as well.

For #reasons, I'd like to get my 2020 taxes sorted out and have something on record sooner rather than later. What I'm thinking of doing now is eFiling my 2020 return immediately based on my original 2018 return. After 2018 is processed and the backlog has cleared up a bit, I'd mail in my 2019 return and file an amended 2020, and the IRS can process those at their leisure.

Here are my actual questions:
1. Is this a really terrible idea? I don't want to tangle this up more by setting a bunch of things in motion at the same time, but it seems to me that an eFiled 2020 return would likely be processed and done before the 2018 amendment even makes it out of the mailbag. I'm fine amending 2020 later, I just don't want to accidentally create more delays now because something doesn't match up.

2. Is there anything to be gained at this point by taking all of this to a tax professional? The actual filings are straightforward enough, but would a pro have access to expedited ways to file and/or get status updates?

3. Can anyone point me to specific updates about the backlog for paper amended returns? It's been 7 weeks, the status page doesn't show that it's been "received" yet and the COVID update page doesn't mention amended returns. These Are Unprecedented Times and I think it'll probably turn up fine eventually, but it would be nice if I knew about how long before I should actually start getting concerned.

Since this is anonymous, here are some additional details that may or may not be relevant:
- The specific correction for 2018 was that my non-deductible IRA contribution should've been a 2019 Roth conversion, rather than 'recharacterized' Roth contributions for 2018
- I haven't gotten any notices from the IRS regarding either the IRA contributions or the unfiled taxes
- I got stimulus payment #1 but not #2 or #3. I expect to qualify for the full 2020 recovery credit.
- I've always used IRS Free File or standard online software to file my own taxes
- In addition to the conversion, I made contributions to both the traditional and Roth IRAs in 2019. I don't plan to recharacterize or convert any of it.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure that you would even be able to eFile your 2020 taxes. My father (for an unknown reason) filed his 2019 taxes on paper in February 2020. He has not yet received that refund. When we tried to eFile his 2020 return, we needed the amount of his 2019 refund for verification purposes. Since they have not processed the 2019 return, he could not be verified. We ended up sending in a paper copy in February 2020. The good news is that he got his 2020 refund a couple of weeks ago.

To extend this overly long story, after not being able to get any information over the phone about his 2019 return, my father wrote a letter to the local IRS office in January 2021. He got a reply to that letter last week, stating that they need another 60 days to give him an answer.

Good luck.
posted by dforemsky at 8:14 PM on July 30, 2021

If you do mail anything, be sure to send it certified mail with tracking and return receipt. We had one filing where the Post Office showed it delivered within two weeks of mailing but the return receipt card was stamped three months later! It will also give you the assurance that the form arrived (you can track it via USPS website) and proof of filing if ever needed.

I think if you use the professional, they have ways to file electronically through their own system that is different from the public e-file system. I don't know if the lack of a 2019 return is a problem but they would know how to deal with it. A quick call could let you know what they can do and how much it would cost.
posted by metahawk at 9:12 PM on July 30, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you cant enjoy ths beauty of filing in a rush because of the need to revise and edit mistakes you're in luck. The IRS generally catches your mistakes and will fix any of a negligible difference and notify you of the rest. If you have refund coming as long as you dont owe quarterly estimates payments you should be fine. Send in whatever payment you still owe for 2020 make sure to mark it clearly withyourfull name, ssn, the tax year it covers and your mailing address. Yes there is a huge backlog but most of the wait is because of trying to decode all illegible ans hard to read handwritten documents and returning them. You should be ok. Make copies of everything you send in!
posted by The_imp_inimpossible at 4:49 AM on July 31, 2021

I have no more information on the expected turnaround time on the backlog than anyone else does, but I mailed my 2020 taxes in mid-May and they still have not been processed yet or even marked received on the status page. :-/
posted by anderjen at 6:19 AM on July 31, 2021

I'm not tracking why the backlog matters for the 2019 filing. The lateness of your returns is determined by when you submit them, not when they process them, so I wouldn't wait for a backlog to clear before filing them.

This seems like something that a tax preparer could help you sort out.
posted by Mid at 7:04 AM on July 31, 2021 [1 favorite]

If the change you made via the amended return had zero impact on the bottomline, then there is nothing to "wait" for regarding that return. Simply make sure you use the correct basis on your 2019 and 2020 returns, if that basis comes into play in determining tax liability.

DO NOT FILE ON PAPER. E-filing is still open for 2019. File electronically.

File this electronically, right after you file 2019 electronically.

You are not going to hear anything about your 2018 amended return for months and months. I am a CPA and am getting responses to letters I mailed 10 months ago.

In terms of updates for processing backlogs, there is nothing new and I am subscribed to all of the specialty IRS/tax professional email alerts, tax digests, printed sources, etc. The IRS advice is still "Just wait, do not send us duplicates". Frustrating, but all you can do is wait. You can always attempt to call the IRS and sometimes the representative can at least tell you whether or not the return has been received and/or if it is being processed.

Lastly, unfortunately, I don't have a special e-filing system. :) My tax software just integrates with the IRS system. Your interface may differ, but the e-filing system is the e-filing system. 2019 is 100% definitely still open for e-filing, so do not mail in 2019!
posted by dngrangl at 11:38 PM on July 31, 2021 [3 favorites]

I have e-filed 3 year old taxes. Getting late taxes files feels great, so get them done.
Can you still amend 2018? Worth a try I guess.
posted by theora55 at 7:26 AM on August 3, 2021

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