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Still waiting on your tax refund? Delay likely because IRS down tens of thousands of employees

Tax refunds likely delayed because IRS is down tens of thousands of employees 02:29

NEW YORK -- Just because Monday is the deadline for filing your federal tax returns, it doesn't mean the Internal Revenue Service is ready to handle the workload.

CBS's Dick Brennan explains why.

If you have a refund coming, it may take a while. Blame it on budget cuts and COVID-19 disruptions, which have shrunk staffing at the IRS to less than 80,000 people, the same level it was near a half-century ago.

Tax day means time's up, time to file. If you've been working on your filing for the past few weeks and you had to call the IRS for help with an issue, well,  you know things are not exactly going at top speed.

"On average, our hold times can range anywhere between 30 and 40 minutes," said Ken Corbin, the IRS' chief taxpayer experience officer.

READ MOREExpert: Confusion reigns supreme as Americans wait until the last minute to file their tax returns

In a report to Congress, the IRS acknowledged only about 20 percent of callers have been getting through to live agents at times this month and that's actually an improvement over 2021, when just 11 percent of calls were answered.

The reasons include a budget that has been slashed and shortages of equipment and staff, along with a serious backlog.

"They are starting the tax year with 3 million tax returns to finish from last year and then the tidal wave comes this year, of course, culminating today," said CBS News Congressional correspondent Scott McFarlane.

McFarlane says the IRS budget has been a victim of Congress.

"It has been politically advantageous for some federal leaders to cut the IRS. It's not only politically tolerable to go home and tell your constituents we chopped the IRS, it might be a political benefit," McFarlane said.

The IRS is moving to hire more people, but they won't be in place time for this season.

"I would say we need thousands more employees still coming to join us. We are an aging workforce and we know that we have to prepare for the future," Corbin said.

And perhaps the one thing that slows things down more than anything is people who refuse to file electronically.

"We found about 2 million people from New York, about 1 million or 2 million people from New Jersey, and half a million from Connecticut still file the old fashion way on paper, and paper is the IRS' Kryptonite. They have the same number of processors to handle the paper and handle the phone and so they are juggling both the phone calls and the paper," McFarlane said.

Still, as of April 8, more than 70 million refunds have been issued and the average refund is almost 10 percent higher than last year.

It's now more than $3,200. 

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