TEXAS, USA — With this year's soaring prices, tax refunds are more important than ever for so many families.
But millions of filers are still waiting for theirs.
Rick Owens had a dream of what to do with his. Owens wanted to build a $2,000 above-ground pool for the summer, like the one his neighbor has.
So he mailed his paper return on Feb. 5, but five months later, still nothing.
"We hadn't heard anything," Owens said. "My wife checked on the computer. We didn't even know if they received it in the mail."
He called the toll-free number provided by the IRS, but had no luck there either.
"That was impossible," Owens said. "We couldn't talk to anybody."
As of July 1, the IRS had a backlog of 10 million unprocessed paper returns.
Experts say paper returns add a few weeks to the process in a normal year, but not the four, five, or even six-month delays some people see now.
Mark Steber with Jackson Hewitt says the best way to avoid these long delays is to file electronically.
"It's faster, it's safer, you get your money quicker," Steber said. "You get your tax return processed quicker."
There are some cases when you have to file a paper return, such as in cases of identity theft. But of the 17 million people who file by paper, Steber says a majority do so by choice.
If it's been more than four weeks, Steber says to check the IRS "Where's My Refund" tool. But if there's nothing there, then there may be a problem.
You can visit tax professionals who may be able to check the status of your return. Also, watch for notices in the mail from the IRS. And finally, remember that accuracy counts.
The good news is, after talking to Owens, he finally got a notice that his refund is on the way.
But it's too late for the pool. Owens said he learned his lesson for next year.