Former 'columnist with attitude,' Bob Dyer, has a beef with the IRS| Betty Lin-Fisher

·9 min read
Bob Dyer, shown in a picture from June enjoying his retirement days, is a former Akron Beacon Journal metro columnist. He was often referred to as the "columnist with attitude."
Bob Dyer, shown in a picture from June enjoying his retirement days, is a former Akron Beacon Journal metro columnist. He was often referred to as the "columnist with attitude."

Remember longtime and now-retired Beacon Journal columnist Bob Dyer?

Dyer, who retired in December 2020, was the Beacon’s “columnist with attitude.” 

Dyer is enjoying retirement. He said he’s doing a lot of reading, playing a lot of golf and has some book possibilities on the horizon.

“But I’m just enjoying doing nothing for the first time in 30 years,” he said.

More: The BeaconJournal.com app is packed with great features. Here are 5 you need to know about

But he definitely still has an attitude and a new beef — with the IRS.

He and millions of other Americans are still waiting on refunds from the IRS in a backlog from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dyer’s wait has been more than 16 months for what he has calculated to be $1,027 from the IRS and $182 from the state of Ohio.

“Can you imagine how much I'd owe the IRS in interest and penalties if I didn't bother paying them $1,209 for 16 months?" Dyer said to me recently.

He’s tried multiple times to get updates from the IRS by phone and finally got one agent to say records show his refund was “initiated” on May 7, 2021. He's still waiting.

At the end of April, Dyer wrote a letter to the local Akron IRS office asking for help. He didn't hear back.

Earlier this month, Dyer emailed me with the subject line “Dyer vs. The IRS.”

Betty Lin-Fisher
Betty Lin-Fisher

For longtime Beacon readers, you’ll know that Dyer referred to himself as “your favorite columnist.”

This week I asked him if was calling his “new favorite columnist” for help.

Dyer came back with this retort: “I said, of the remaining columnists at the Beacon, I’ll call my all-time favorite remaining columnist. I went to the consumer columnist, who solves so many problems and I figured if I’m really in a bind, I’m going to call Betty and you can quote me.”

All jokes aside, I tried to contact the IRS on Dyer’s behalf and got nowhere.

IRS spokesman Bruce Friedland said “federal privacy law prohibits the IRS from commenting on specific taxpayers.”

10.5 million tax returns still pending

I asked Friedland for a general update on the status of delayed returns.

“The IRS is opening mail within normal timeframes and all paper and electronic individual returns received prior to October 2021 have been processed if the return had no errors or did not require further review,” Friedland said in an email reply.

“As of June 1, 2022, we had 10.5 million unprocessed individual returns which include returns received before 2022, and new tax year 2021 returns.

“Of these, 2 million returns require error correction or other special handling, and 8.5 million are paper returns waiting to be reviewed and processed. This work does not typically require us to correspond with taxpayers but does require special handling by an IRS employee so, in these instances, it is taking the IRS more than 21 days to issue any related refund and in some cases this work could take 90 to 120 days. If a correction is made to any Recovery Rebate Credit, Child Tax Credit, Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit claimed on the return, the IRS will send taxpayers an explanation. Taxpayers are encouraged to continue to check online at "Tax Season Refund Frequently Asked Questions.” 

Dyer's predicament

Here’s what happened with Dyer:

On Feb. 19, 2021, Dyer filed his federal taxes electronically. He owed $2,559 and mailed in a check, which was promptly cashed, he said.

In the summer of 2020, Dyer and other employees of Beacon Journal and Gannett, our corporate parent, had to take several one-week furloughs. We filed for unemployment benefits for those furlough weeks.

On March 11, 2021, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act, which among other things allowed taxpayers to exclude from taxable income up to $10,200 in unemployment compensation paid in 2020 if your modified adjusted gross income (AGI) was less than $150,000.

Taxpayers affected by this change were told not to amend their taxes if they had already filed.

The IRS said it would automatically refund money — or apply the refund to tax debts — for people who already filed their tax return reporting unemployment compensation as taxable income.

Dyer has used a tax program to recalculate what he would have owed to the IRS if his unemployment compensation, which was less than the $10,200 allowed, would not have been taxable.

It’s a sizeable amount. He would have owed $1,532 instead of $2,559. So he’s due $1,027. Once he gets his federal refund back, he can amend his Ohio taxes and get a refund of $182 instead of the $5 he paid.

Recently, Dyer tried to reach the local IRS office with a certified letter with receipt. He received the receipt back.

“I have not heard one single word," he said. "They’re sure as hell not assisting me. If nothing else, you fire up your email and say, ‘Sorry, we’re behind.' Just tell me something. Don’t just ghost me, for God’s sake.”

“I understand that COVID has made everyone’s life more difficult and I understand that the IRS has staffing issues," he said. "But my God, this thing had been initiated, according to an agent of the IRS, on May 7 of 2021. It is now June 15 of 2022 and it’s just sitting there.”

Dyer wants to be clear that while he wants his money from the IRS, “this is not gonna make or break me."

“But there are a lot of folks out there who are truly living paycheck to paycheck and some of them are struggling to put food on the table. And if this is the kind of treatment I’m getting, I’ve got to imagine that a whole bunch of other people are getting the same treatment.

“To me, it’s pretty appalling that an agency this important is now 15 months behind on something they initiated."

I asked Dyer if he had tried to find a status on his refund at the IRS’ “Where’s My Refund” site online, www.irs.gov/refunds, like the IRS suggests. He hadn’t, so we went online while talking. But we realized he needed his exact refund amount and he owed for his original tax return. He has an updated figure from his own calculations, but “there’s no freaking way they will have done that math for the website,” he said.

In case you're facing a similar dilemma as Dyer, here's some information provided by the IRS spokesman about various tax delays:

How long will I have to wait for my tax return?

The IRS understands the importance of timely processing of tax returns and refund issuance. We have processed all error-free returns received prior to October 2021 and continue to work the returns that need to be manually reviewed due to errors.  We are continuing to reroute tax returns and taxpayer correspondence from locations that are behind to locations where more staff is available, and we are taking other actions to minimize any delays.

Tax returns are opened and processed in the order received. As the return is processed, whether it was filed electronically or on paper, it may be delayed because it has a mistake including errors concerning the Recovery Rebate Credit and the Child Tax Credit, is missing information, or there is suspected identity theft or fraud. If we can fix it without contacting you, we will. If we need more information or need you to verify that it was you who sent the tax return, we will write you a letter.

The resolution of these issues could take 90 to 120 days depending on how quickly and accurately you respond, and the ability of IRS staff trained and working under social distancing requirements to complete the processing of your return.

What should I do if I didn't get my return yet?

In most instances, no further action is needed but you may check Where’s My Refund? or you can view your account. If you filed electronically and received an acknowledgement, you do not need to take any further action other than promptly responding to any requests for information. If you filed on paper, check Where’s My Refund? If it tells you we have received your return or are processing or reviewing it, we are processing your return, but it may be under review.

If you filed before October 2021 and Where’s My Refund? does not have any information, your return has been opened but work on it has not begun. We’re working hard to get through the carryover inventory.

Please don’t file a second tax return or contact the IRS about the status of your return.

What is the IRS status of processing Form 1040-X, amended individual tax returns?

 As of June 4, 2022, we had 2.1 million unprocessed Forms 1040-X. We are processing these returns in the order received and are working hard to get through the inventory. The current timeframe can be more than 20 weeks instead of up to 16.

Please don't file a second tax return or contact the IRS about the status of your amended return. Taxpayers should continue to check Where's My Amended Return?

What's the status of the unemployment compensation exclusion corrections?

 The IRS continues to review tax year 2020 returns and process corrections for taxpayers who paid taxes on unemployment compensation, to exclude the compensation from income if eligible.

To date, the IRS has issued over 11.9 million refunds totaling $14.6 billion. Some taxpayers will receive refunds, while others will have the overpayment applied to taxes due or other debts.

The IRS will mail a letter to affected taxpayers to inform them of the corrections, generally within 30 days from when the corrections were completed. See the 2020 Unemployment Compensation Exclusion FAQs for more information.

Beacon Journal staff reporter Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ To see her most recent stories and columns, go to www.tinyurl.com/bettylinfisher

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Retired columnist Bob Dyer wants his 2020 tax refund from the IRS