According to an IRS watchdog, problems with the tax return processing company’s customer service are getting worse.
Washington, D.C. At the IRS, today is Groundhog Day.
According to a watchdog study released on Wednesday, the agency has an even greater backlog for this tax season than it did a year ago after clearing a difficult backlog from 2021, and its processing speed for paper returns is slowing down.
Additionally, people are reporting lengthier phone hold times, and delays in completing paper returns have been running between six and a year, according to the National Taxpayer Advocate, an independent monitor within the IRS.
The Internal Revenue Service reported the other day that it is on schedule to clear the backlog of 2021 tax returns this week, one day before the report on taxpayer issues was due to be presented to Congress twice a year.
There are recommendations for politicians to think about in the Objectives Report to Congress.
“Paper is the IRS’s Kryptonite, and the agency is still buried in it,” I wrote when I presented my Annual Report to Congress six months ago. Erin Collins, a national taxpaying advocate, contributed to the study. It’s Groundhog Day. “Fast forward to this Objectives Report.”
The IRS had a greater backlog of paper tax returns at the end of May than it did at the same time last year, and it was processing those returns at a slower rate.
Collins, an IRS ombudsman, said of the issues facing the organization: “The math is overwhelming.”
The agency has a backlog of 21.3 million unprocessed paper tax returns at the end of May, up 1.3 million from the same time last year, the report said. With only 2,056 staff hired, the agency fell short of its target of hiring 5,473 new workers to process returns.
In addition, the average phone wait time climbed from 20 minutes to 29 minutes from the previous year.
Collins added that the fact that the backlog is still increasing “raises serious concerns, particularly because millions of taxpayers have been waiting six months or longer to receive their refunds.”
The numbers in the study, according to IRS spokesman Jodie Reynolds, “are neither the most accurate nor most recent information.”
According to Reynolds, the IRS is currently processing tax returns far faster than it was a year ago. By hiring additional contractors, rearranging staff, and requiring employee overtime, the IRS “continues to make great progress on the inventory,” she claimed.
Treasury Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo and IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig stated in a joint letter to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, that six to eight IRS employees manually process each paper return that is filed.
The letter stated that the agency needs consistent, long-term financing to invest in updating outdated technology, enhancing taxpayer services, and raising voluntary compliance to prevent crises similar to this one in the future.
Those resources are essential for automating processes to boost productivity.
No one feels the weight of backlogs more than front-line employees who have been slogging through that paperwork for months, according to Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union.
Employees have been tackling the backlogs at IRS locations across the nation during the pandemic, “and have been putting in extra hours to clear the backlog.
The IRS, he claimed, “needs additional personnel, resources, and modernized technology, all of which are required to stop backlogs in the future.
According to the Taxpayer Advocate report, agency leadership should be commended for bearing the weight of an “extraordinarily complex tax code, “outdated equipment, a lack of employees, and ongoing difficulties caused by the distribution of COVID-19-related programs
“Despite these difficulties, the overall performance of the tax system over the previous two years has been good, “added the study.
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