Culpeper Star-Exponent: IRS adds 3,500 phone operators to address stimulus delay, at Spanberger & Co.’s urging

CULPEPER STAR-EXPONENT

To answer millions of Americans wondering why they haven’t yet gotten their stimulus checks, the Internal Revenue Service has added 3,500 telephone operators, the IRS announced Monday.

The agency acted in response to pressure from a group of legislators, who had inquired about the status of taxpayers’ $1,200 stimulus checks, the IRS’ dearth of customer service representatives and its lack of telework operations.

U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger authored an inquiry to IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig, and persuaded 10 other Democrats to sign it with her.

There was no alternative for taxpayers who couldn’t get information about their stimulus checks from the agency’s online Get My Payment tool. The IRS has not arranged for its customer representatives to work remotely since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

On Monday, the IRS announced that it will hire thousands of operators to answer Americans’ frequently asked questions about the economic impact payments under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was passed in March 2020.

The IRS created its Get My Payment tool to update taxpayers on the status of these payments, but many Americans have reported it hasn’t helped them, Spanberger’s office said Tuesday. It called the IRS response to date “glaringly insufficient.”

Adding the representatives “is only the first step in addressing the enormous, unacceptable backlog of work that has piled up for IRS employees,” Spanberger said in a statement Tuesday. “Taxpayers deserve better treatment during this crisis. Especially at a time when financial stress levels are high and family budgets are strained, Central Virginians should be able to have their urgent questions answered by a human being on the other end of the line.”

The first-term lawmaker said she will keep pushing the agency to better coordinate its call-center operations, troubleshoot its Get My Payment tool, and bring more relief to Virginians and their families.

The IRS is posting new answers to taxpayers’ questions through its online Economic Impact Payment Information Center.

For people who are eligible for a stimulus check but aren’t required to file a tax return, the agency’s Non-Filers tool is available in English or Spanish so they can register for a direct payment.

In Spanberger’s letter to the IRS earlier this month, she and her colleagues also asked the IRS to explain how it will reduce the backlog of work going undone because its staff can’t telework. That includes processing of paper tax returns and distributing tax refunds.

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