(WHTM) — It is now August, and still, millions of Americans have not received their tax refunds. With this year’s soaring prices, tax refunds were more important than ever for many families, yet many filers are still waiting.

Rick Owens was thinking about building a $2,000 above-ground pool this summer with his tax refund. He mailed his paper return on Feb. 5, but five months later…nothing.

“We hadn’t heard anything, my wife checked on the computer,” Owens said. “We didn’t even know if they received it in the mail.”

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He called the IRS’s toll-free number but wasn’t able to talk to anyone. 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 are seeing now.

“The IRS is facing the same challenges that many companies are. People can’t go to work or choose not to go to work,” said Mark Steber with Jackson Hewitt. Steber says the best way to avoid these long delays is to file electronically.

“It’s faster, it’s safer, you get your money quicker, you get your tax return processed quicker,” Steber said.

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 on paper, Steber says a majority do so by choice.

Steber says if it’s been more than four weeks, check the IRS tool “Where’s My Refund.” If there is nothing there, there may be a problem. Some options at that point are:

  • Visit a tax professional, who may be able to check on the status of your return
  • Watch for IRS notices in the mail
  • Remember…accuracy counts

Owens did finally get a notice his refund is on the way, but it’s too late to install that pool. Next year, he plans to file online and suggests others do the same so they don’t waste their money.