PINELLAS COUNTY — Brain cancer stole Matthew Hensberry from his wife and two young children in 2020. His widow Karina says she filed the family’s tax return a couple of months later in June. According to the return filed by Hensberry, Uncle Sam owed them nearly $6,000.
But the IRS never paid. The family had already sold their house to cover bills and keep up with expenses when they lost Matthew’s income but they needed that refund to pay for child care expenses.
According to this treasury report at the end of 2020 the IRS had a backlog of over 8 million returns. The report lists multiple reasons, including 4,400 unfilled positions and COVID-related closures of many IRS offices.
In Karina’s case, the IRS contacted her in October of 2020. The letter asks for confirmation of her husband’s death and states the refund would arrive six to eight weeks after they received the documentation.
Karina says she sent Matthew’s death certificate to the IRS last fall but by May the family was still waiting on their refund.
“It was stressful,” Karina said. “I called them many times and the phone literally hangs up on you.”
After hearing the family’s story, Taking Action Reporter Jackie Callaway questioned the IRS about their refund.
Days later Karina says the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service called her and said they would process the refund before the end of June. The Taxpayer Advocate Service helps taxpayers solve problems with the IRS.
“I was really shocked that they called that quickly,” said Karina.
The Taxpayer Advocate Service could help Karina because her return had already been processed. But more than six million returns from 2019 remain in “suspense” and have not been processed and posted on the IRS system the TAS said.
“TAS understands the frustrations and hardship caused by these unprecedented circumstances. Please be patient … and understand why TAS cannot accept your case at this time.” the advocacy service wrote on a web page titled “TAS’s Ability to Help With Delayed Refunds Is Limited.”