Those coronavirus checks might be a while. A congressional memo has already warned that Americans who haven’t given the IRS direct deposit information may have to wait up to five months. Now experts and US officials tell USA Today that antiquated technology and reduced staffing at the agency might also hamper things. Among the problems are IRS information technology systems, two of which—including a master file listing all taxpayers—are decades old and don’t always communicate well with more recently installed computers. “The IRS has erected a 50-story office building on top of a creaky, 60-year-old foundation, and it is adding a few more floors every year,” says Nina Olson, a former taxpayer advocate at the IRS.
“There are inherent limitations on the functionality of a 60-year-old infrastructure, and at some point, the entire edifice is likely to collapse,” she adds. What’s more, the IRS workforce has been reduced 20% over the past 10 years. All that means check delivery is “going to be measured in terms of months, not weeks,” says Howard Gleckman, an expert at the Urban Institute’s Tax Policy Center. For its part, the IRS says it’s going to build a web-based portal where Americans can enter their direct deposit information, but Gleckman warns “there is no way they can build this thing in a week.” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, meanwhile, is staying upbeat: “I told you this would be three weeks, I’m now committing to two weeks,” he said of the first checks, per the Hill. “We’re delivering on our commitments.”