The IRS has been overwhelmed with processing tax returns and answering phone calls as a result of the pandemic.

The IRS phone lines are known for notoriously long waits during tax season in normal years. However, this is not a normal year.

The IRS received more than 7 million more phone calls in January 2021 than it did in January 2020. The additional calls are due to several reasons.

The IRS is normally receiving calls about questions concerning the current tax year. But now the IRS is swamped from answering questions from people who have still not received their 2019 refund. At one point after the IRS shutdown from the Corona virus, they had over 10 million pieces of mail to process.

Due to the shutdown, the IRS notices of penalties and interest were mailed to taxpayers later than normal. Consequently, people are calling the IRS later than normal to inquire about the late penalties and interest.

In addition to receiving calls about late refunds, the IRS is receiving calls from people who have not received their stimulus.

Unfortunately, a decade of declining funding for the IRS and the effects of a paralyzing pandemic has created a major dilemma for the IRS and taxpayers.

A likely third round of stimulus payments will only generate more phone calls and add to the problem.

Consequently, it’s important to be as efficient as possible when filing your return and getting information from the IRS.

By efiling your return, you can normally expect to receive your refund in a week or two. Mailing your return could create a huge delay. As of late January, the IRS still hasn’t processed millions of 2019 tax returns.

Rather than call the IRS, it can be much more efficient to obtain information by using the IRS website. The website provides information about the status of tax returns and can also be used if you need to know the amount of stimulus that you have received. The website can be used for other activities such as setting up an installment agreement. Using the website when possible can provide answers and solutions in minutes rather than waiting for hours or days.

By efiling and using the IRS website as much as possible you will be helping yourself and helping others who don’t have the ability to efile or who truly need to speak to the IRS. And you will help to make it possible for the IRS to fulfill their duties to the public in a more efficient manner.

An advantage of using a tax professional is that they may be willing to help you by calling the IRS on the Tax Practitioner Hotline. Normally they can get through to the IRS in a matter of minutes. However, tax season is an extremely busy time for tax professionals and it would be best for you to use the IRS website whenever possible.