BALTIMORE (WJZ) — In less than two weeks you can begin filing your state and federal income taxes, but already the IRS is warning Americans to expect a delayed and frustrating tax season.

Blame the pandemic.

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The IRS said staffing and funding challenges combined with the complications caused by the federal stimulus and child tax credit payments could really put a wrench in the 2021 tax works.

In Maryland, an average of $3.5 billion in refunds are sent out each year. State comptroller Peter Franchot said the money will eventually go out, but it may take a little longer.

“We can’t guarantee that we’ll have the same cracker jack service we’ve always had, which is getting refunds back within two and a half business days,” Franchot said. “We’re gonna do our best. We’ve been pummeled by covid just like the IRS.”

Covid is a big unknown.

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Franchot said not all of his 1,150 employees are vaccinated, and even the vaccinated are being hit by the Omicron variant. On top of that, they’re burnt out after two tough years.

His advice:

“You should file early, file electronically, expect a quick refund and make sure you have direct deposit for your refund. If you don’t get a refund quickly you should call us. But I think the issue there might be that your return had some kind of minor error.”

The comptroller urges everyone to take it easy on government agencies as they deal with the same difficulties we’re all facing during this surge.

If you received child tax credit payments, keep an eye on your mailbox. The IRS letter 6419 is being sent out so you can report those payments.

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CBS Baltimore Staff