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I filed for the first time on paper in June 2020 for tax year 2019, and I have the certified mail receipt. I owed a balance, and the IRS deposited the check that I enclosed, but I didn't receive either of the 2020 stimulus payments, which I was eligible for, nor did I receive any correspondence from the IRS.

I wanted to see my 2019 record of account to try to figure out whether there was some reason I wasn't eligible for the stimulus payments (and I'd keep the transcript just for my records). Neither the Get My Transcript nor the Request Transcript irs.gov services would let me request the transcript because my details couldn't be verified.

I called the IRS, and the representative researched my account, finding that indeed they had credited my account for the payment, but that they had no record of my return. He advised me to resend the same 2019 return with a statement explaining that this was a refile. However, if I did refile, I'd be contravening the IRS Covid operations webpage, which states

Other than responding to any requests for information promptly, there’s no action you can take. We’re working hard to get through the backlog. Please don’t file a second tax return or contact the IRS about the status of your return.

I'm not in a rush to get my transcript; my return could be in one of their trailers of Covid-delayed paper returns and might still eventually be processed.

Should I obey the customer service representative and refile my previous-year return, since the IRS seem to have lost my original paper return, or should I obey the website and hold off refiling until the IRS provides a written instruction to file, since the IRS might still be working through the backlog of returns?

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  • Did the IRS rep tell you to file it right away? Did the rep tell you that there would be a notice telling you to file coming? Feb 18 at 23:32
  • @BenMiller-RememberMonica No and no: they never said explicitly that I had to refile within a timeframe, and they didn't mention that the IRS would send any notice.
    – user106227
    Feb 19 at 0:12
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If it was me, I would probably wait to file another 2019 return.

In early December 2020, the IRS commissioner announced that they were still sitting on 1 million unprocessed 2019 paper tax returns, and 3 million pieces of unopened correspondence. Most likely, your tax return is in that stack.

As you noted, the IRS notes on a webpage about COVID-related delays that they are still working through 2019 forms and they are asking people not to resend returns until asked.

Stimulus checks in 2021 have not been finalized yet, so it is impossible to say how they will work. They might be based on your 2019 tax return, and if so, you might not get them until your tax return is processed. But sending in your return again does not guarantee that the duplicate will be processed any faster than the original. And if you miss out on stimulus checks now, most likely it will be made right next year in the form of a tax credit, similar to the relationship between the 2020 stimulus checks and the Recovery Rebate Tax Credit.

If you do choose to send a duplicate return, make sure that you include a letter stating that it is a duplicate return of one already sent, and why you are sending it, so that they know that you aren't simply sending it in late if they happen to open the second one before the first one.

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  • Thanks! (1) If I were to eventually send in a duplicate return, do you know of any official list of evidence that would prove I discharged my tax obligations timely (I can think of the certified mail receipt and an image of my cancelled check)? (2) Is there any scenario where I would be hurt by not being able to present an accurate previous-year tax transcript? (3, rant) To your point about the stimulus payments, I'm annoyed that my 2019 income, which the IRS hasn't seen yet, will be below the threshold, but my 2020 income will phase out ... and there isn't anything I can do, ugh.
    – user106227
    Feb 19 at 3:21
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    @user106227 - 1. Seeing as how you paid on time, you spoke to an agent, and the IRS is telling people not to worry about unprocessed returns, I would be shocked if there would be any penalty for you if they cannot find your return and ask you to send it again. 2. Tax transcripts are only useful if you need to prove your income to someone and they don't trust your own copy of your tax return. I've never needed a tax transcript; I suppose it is possible that you would be asked by someone to present one, but your explanation of why you can't is a good one, and believable this year. Feb 19 at 3:27
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    3. Yes, that is too bad. However, one could make the argument that if your income in 2020 was too high to get the (still not certain) stimulus, then you are not a person that should be getting it. The point of it, after all, is to help out the people most affected financially by the pandemic. Feb 19 at 3:30
  • Thanks for your reassurance. (3) Yeah, it's true I don't need the money presently, and I do hope what I would have received goes to someone who needs it, even if it's only because of the IRS's continuing cunctation on my own return.
    – user106227
    Feb 19 at 3:46
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Absolutely refile the return:

  1. accounting software needs to know where money came from.
  2. they know you needed to file a return, so at some point will come looking for it.

And do it electronically, since this is the 21st century.

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    It is too late to file electronically for 2019. Prior year returns can only be done on paper.
    – nanoman
    Feb 18 at 20:07
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    Considering an IRS agent said to refile, why delay it?
    – Hart CO
    Feb 19 at 1:27
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    @HartCO I appreciate your perspective. I would refile right away if the IRS gave a written instruction, but I'm queasy about obeying a verbal instruction from a customer service agent that contradicts the written instruction on the Covid Operations page on the IRS website: "Please don’t file a second tax return or contact the IRS about the status of your return". Should I be queasy about obeying the agent and contravening the website? (I'll edit the question to clarify the dilemma.)
    – user106227
    Feb 19 at 2:24
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    @user106227 +RonJohn: the people who process your mailed check are not actually the IRS, but an outsourced bank, who forwards the return to the actual IRS. See fiscal.treasury.gov/irs-lockbox or in much(!) more detail irs.gov/irm/part3/irm_03-000-230#idm140358162095136 (IRM is Internal Revenue Manual, the IRS's internal operating procedures). I'm pretty sure the return doesn't appear in their systems until it is transcribed (a person reads all the data and keys it in; this is the part that takes time). Feb 19 at 3:53
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    @nanoman: that's not correct at least in general; the IRS system (MEF) can accept the currently-due year and two prior years. This is called out in VITA/TCE instructions. because they tend to get some taxpayers who are not the smartest puppies in the litter; see e.g. pub 4012 for 2020 page M-6 (PDF page 260). Whether consumer software can use this capability is up to the software vendor (who is the ERO). It is too late for direct-deposit of a refund, which OP isn't seeking. But I don't know if there's a way to mark an efile as a duplicate, as requested/needed here. Feb 19 at 4:02

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