IRS refund hell: You’re in ‘error queue’

Update on my tax refund: It’s still stuck in IRS hell. Thanks to Congressional inquiry, we might have some indication of why. We, of course, have no clue when it might shake loose and salve financial woes here in the world outside the bureaucracy.  

I spoke with a caseworker from Sen. Chuck Grassley’s office in Des Moines. They discovered my tax return is in the “error queue.”


We don’t know.

Well, what can we do to fix it?

We’re monitoring the situation.

Will someone from the IRS or the Senator’s office contact me?

We’ll contact you as soon as we hear something from Taxpayer Advocacy Services.

How long might that be?

We don’t know.

Progress is slight when you’re dealing with the federal government.

Grassley’s caseworker, who was very kind, suggested people who took a tax credit for unpaid stimulus checks have ended up in the error queue.

I got both of my stimulus checks. I did not take the credit.

The caseworker said sometimes the computer just randomly spot checks returns.


HAL 9000 is screwing with my tax refund.

It had to be this year.

Had. To. Be.

I’m unemployed.

I’m attending graduate school.

Gov. Kim Reynolds bailed out of the pandemic assistance program that paid an extra $300 on regular unemployment benefits. She did this even though the money came from the federal government and cost her nothing to distribute.

Reynolds argued that the money incentivized people not to go back to work.

The governor conveniently ignores that before the pandemic, the state’s unemployment rate was 2.9 percent. It stands at 3.9 percent now, up a tenth of a point since she decided to pull out of the pandemic assistance.

A possible “incentive” for people not going back to work is fewer jobs that pay a living wage.

Anyway, Reynolds can’t be bothered with this kind of thing. She’s got dinners to host for private parochial school fundraisers.

Regardless, I’m sandwiched between the soulless monolithic actions of IRS computers and Reynolds’ soulless political machinations.

I know some would read these paragraphs and start in with the bootstraps speech.

The thing is, I’m already doing that. Except I don’t have boots with straps on them. I have old man New Balance sneakers.

The point is I am doing what you are supposed to do when you get knocked down. I’m getting back up again.

I’m so getting back up again.

My career died.

Well, journalism isn’t technically dead, but I worked in several newsrooms over 27 years. Journalism is like living in a hospice without the morphine drip.

The days of me doing journalism ended. It wasn’t my choice, but it was, in the end, the right time. There was nothing more I could do for or in a trade that had changed so much since the beginning of my career.

So, I invested in myself. I enrolled in graduate school. I took out student loans. I began the process of remaking my entire life at age 45.

Yes, I use unemployment benefits. But I’m learning to become a teacher, a field where more workers are needed.

But for this to work, I’ve got to make everything go almost exactly right.

And that tax refund, the one tangled up in government nonsense, would pay for about three months’ rent.

If there’s truly an error, maybe it’s less.

But still, it’s a significant bit of relief.

This IRS cluster really burns me up.

This is money I earned.

It’s not a stimulus check.

It’s not an entitlement.

It’s not a benefit.

It’s money I overpaid in taxes.

I overpaid it apparently because we don’t have calculators in America that can figure out what a person owes and just deduct that from a person’s pay.

We instead play this guessing game that involves software, a visit to a stranger’s office in the mall, and chicken bone divination.

The IRS’s failure to function properly has created a hardship for me and what I can only guess is scores of other Americans.

Grassley’s caseworker said the IRS is getting closer to full staffing now. She thought that might clear things up faster.



I filed my taxes 74 days ago. I shudder to think what the IRS believes “soon” means.

Daniel P. Finney writes columns for, a free, reader-supported website. Please consider donating to help me cover personal expenses as I continue writing while I pursue my master’s degree and teacher certification. 
Post: 1217 24th St., Apt. 36, Des Moines, 50311. 

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