The Internal Revenue Service is reassigning staff to deal with mounds of unprocessed paper due to a backlog of millions of tax returns from last year. However, the IRS faces a difficult task and it looks like Congress won’t be providing much help for the foreseeable future. Erin Collins, the national taxpayers’ advocate, recently told members of the Senate Finance Committee that the agency needs to return to a “stable and healthy” state so it can do its basic work.
Collins told panel members on Thursday that the tax collection agency had 23.5 million tax returns and other documents in its inventory as of early February, including correspondence that required manual processing.
“All individual paper and computerized refunds,” she replied, according to the IRS.
The IRS has taken steps to deal with the backlog and prepare for the current tax filing season, which began late last month and ends April 18. The measures include assigning some 1,200 employees to help process amended returns and correspondence. The agency is also setting up a “second surge team to put additional resources on treatment challenges,” she said.
The IRS also said it was canceling plans to close a tax processing center in Austin, Texas, in 2024. It closed a similar facility in Fresno, California, last year.
Collins said the IRS has also announced a “welcome suspension” of many of the automated notices it sends out while it gets caught up in the backlog. But she said paper returns are the kryptonite of the IRS: “The IRS always transcribes paper line by line, number by number.”
“We commend the IRS for finally recognizing that these Austin employees are critical to the agency’s ability to extract from the backlog of returns and correspondence, and that there is still a need for the IRS to retains that capability,” said Tony Reardon, Chairman. of the National Union of Treasury Employees, which represents IRS workers, said in a statement. The IRS has also outsourced some office work such as opening envelopes and requires mandatory overtime for some employees.
In addition to the challenge of processing individual and business tax returns, the IRS has been given responsibility for sending out three rounds of COVID-19 relief payments over the past two years, as well as distributing the advance earned income tax credits to eligible families.
The extra work comes at a time when IRS staffing is down 22% from 2010 levels, according to an analysis by the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, with funding down 20%.
Summary of news:
- The Internal Revenue Service is planning a huge hiring drive to help reduce the backlog of tens of millions of tax returns.
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