According to a January report from the Taxpayer Advocate Service, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is “in crisis.”
It comes as the IRS warns that most tax refunds will be delayed this year, and IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig admits that his agency is “unable to deliver the amount of service and enforcement” that taxpayers need.
Expert Warns Of IRS “Crisis”
Erin Collins, the National Taxpayer Advocate, announced that the recently-published paper is the “Kryptonite” of the IRS and the agency is “still buried in it” as the new tax filing season begins.
According to the TAS report, the IRS still had 6 million unprocessed individual tax returns at the end of December and a further 2.3 million unprocessed amended individual tax returns. Combined with a backlog of 2 million unprocessed employee quarterly returns and 5 million pieces of mail from taxpayers, the IRS is facing its biggest backlog in history.
“The IRS is in crisis and needs to apply resources to its core mission,” the report says, adding that returns and the processing of refunds are not of the utmost importance.
IRS Customer Service Is No Better
Reaching the IRS by phone has not been a simple task for many years, but taxpayers should expect it to be even worse this year. During the 2021 tax filing season, Collins said that fewer than one in 10 calls were answered. Even during off-peak periods, the IRS only answered four in 10 calls.
The average wait time for callers who were able to get through to an agent was 23 minutes.
The IRS received 24.6 million calls related to stimulus check payments between March 2020 and November 2020.
Collins also described how taxpayers had a “horrendous” experience when communicating with the agency, though also acknowledged that it was the “most challenging year taxpayers and tax professionals have ever experienced.”
The report described how collection notices were issued to taxpayers who were still waiting for their correspondence to be processed, and insufficient information was provided on the “Where’s My Refund” tool – an online page designed to reduce the number of people directly contacting the IRS to request updates on their refund.
IRS In Trouble: Congress Piles on the Pressure
A provision of the “Build Back Better” package that President Joe Biden and Congressional Democrats failed to pass through the Senate had allocated $80 billion in additional funding for the IRS over the next 10 years. The legislation would have assisted the IRS in hiring new employees and rolling out new technology.
Since the failure of the bill, however, a group of 81 House Democrats has put direct pressure on the IRS to put forward a plan to address the significant backlog.
Rep. Eric Swalwell of California led the calls, writing in a letter to IRS Commissioner Rettig that “no taxpayer should have to lose out on the opportunity to purchase a home and or enroll in college because they are waiting for their returns to be processed.”
“We therefore urge the IRS to create a plan to efficiently and effectively process the backlog in mailed tax returns, as well as to assist TAS in the hiring and training of new taxpayer advocates, and to advise Congress of that plan,” the letter continued.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and report on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.