Spanberger, Menendez, Fitzpatrick, Cassidy Lead Bipartisan, Bicameral Effort Urging IRS to Clear Extensive Backlog, Resolve Ongoing Customer Service Issues

The 93-Member Effort Comes as the Congresswoman Continues to Work with Constituents Who are Waiting for Backlogged Tax Returns or Cannot Reach IRS Customer Service Representatives

HENRICO, V.A. — U.S. Representatives Abigail Spanberger and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), as well as U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), led a bipartisan, bicameral group of 89 of their colleagues in reiterating to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) the urgent need to take immediate actions to reduce its massive backlog and reduce disruptions for Virginia taxpayers.

In a joint letter sent to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, the lawmakers urge the IRS to eliminate ongoing, unprecedented processing delays, resolve customer service issues, extend the suspension of automated notices and collections, and continue making maximum use of overtime and surge teams. Specifically, they pressed the agency to detail its plan to eliminate the backlog and speed up return processing, address the level of unprocessed returns, share refund delivery timelines, and answer if it plans to expand its workforce to meet demand.

According to the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA), the paper return backlog has actually increased by 1.3 million and the agency has only been able to meet 12 percent of its hiring goals. Additionally, refunds are currently taking six months or longer on average compared to previous historical processing times of four to six weeks.

“Since last year, numerous Members of Congress in the House and Senate have sent several letters regarding customer service issues, processing delays, and the outstanding backlog of returns,” wrote Spanberger and the bicameral group of lawmakers to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig. “Yet, we are writing again to urge the IRS to extend the suspension of automated collections, continue the pause on automated notices, and keep its surge teams in place until hiring challenges and processing backlogs are adequately addressed.”

The lawmakers continued, “We believe that the IRS must take additional steps to improve customer service issues, decrease processing delays, and work-down the backlog of paper returns and correspondence by continuing the maximum use of overtime and surge teams, as well as the continued suspension of automated notices and collections—which have been critical in reducing pandemic-related tax return and correspondence backlogs.”

The Congresswoman has long sounded the alarm about customer service performance and the agency’s massive processing backlogs. In March, Spanberger and Menendez led more than 100 Senate and House colleagues in a bipartisan effort to press Commissioner Rettig on the agency’s lack of a comprehensive plan to remedy the numerous problems affecting taxpayers as this filing season is already well underway. In February, Spanberger and Menendez led a 45-Member, bicameral effort urging the IRS to take immediate actions to reduce its massive backlog and improve its customer service during the 2022 tax filing season. Shortly after sending the letter, the IRS announced it would be putting together a second surge team to help address the massive backlogs and continue to improve customer service.

Joining Representatives Spanberger and Fitzpatrick in the House in signing the letter are U.S. Reps. Cynthia Axne (D-IA), Don Bacon (R-NE), Karen Bass (D-CA), Don Beyer (D-VA), Sanford Bishop Jr. (D-GA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Brendan Boyle (D-PA), Julia Brownley (D-CA) Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-FL), Judy Chu (D-CA), Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA), J. Luis Correa (D-CA), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Mayra Flores (R-TX), Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), William Keating (D-MA), Fred Keller (R-PA), Andy Kim (D-NJ), Young Kim (R-CA), Susie Lee (D-NV), Elaine Luria (D-VA), Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), Betty McCollum (D-MN), A. Donald McEachin (D-VA), Patrick T. McHenry (R-NC), Daniel Meuser (R-PA), Joseph Morelle (D-NY), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Donald Payne Jr. (D-NJ), Scott Peters (D-CA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Katie Porter (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Deborah K. Ross (D-NC), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), David Scott (D-GA), Robert C. Scott (D-VA), Mark Takano (D-CA), Dina Titus (D-NV), David Trone (D-MD), Ann Wagner (R-MO), Randy Weber (R-TX), Bruce Westerman (R-AR), Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), and Nikema Williams (D-GA).

Joining Senators Menendez and Cassidy in the Senate in signing this letter are U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Richard Burr (R-NC), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), John Hickenlooper (D-CO), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mark Warner (D-VA), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Click here to read the letter, and the full letter text is below.

Dear Commissioner Rettig:

Thank you for your continued work to eliminate the unprecedented backlog at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Since last year, numerous Members of Congress in the House and Senate have sent several letters regarding customer service issues, processing delays, and the outstanding backlog of returns. Several Members of Congress have urged you to provide penalty relief for taxpayers, have continually pressed the agency to pursue maximum overtime options for staff who are working on the backlog and on surge teams, and have asked the agency to deploy additional surge teams and other resources in an effective manner to reduce the backlog. Yet, we are writing again to urge the IRS to extend the suspension of automated collections, continue the pause on automated notices, and keep its surge teams in place until hiring challenges and processing backlogs are adequately addressed.

In a Senate Finance Committee Hearing on April 7, 2022, you estimated that the IRS would return to a “healthy state” by the end of 2022 and that the IRS expected to hire 10,000 customer service representatives between this year and next year. Yet, according to the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA), the paper return backlog has actually increased by 1.3 million from the same point as last year and that the IRS was only able to meet 12 percent of its hiring goals for processing center employees earlier this year.1 NTA also noted that the IRS has not met its 5,000 employee hiring goal for submission processing positions—falling short by 3,417 employees, and that while historically the IRS has paid refunds from paper returns in four to six weeks, refunds are currently taking six months or longer.2

Accordingly, we believe that the IRS must take additional steps to improve customer service issues, decrease processing delays, and work-down the backlog of paper returns and correspondence by continuing the maximum use of overtime and surge teams, as well as the continued suspension of automated notices and collections—which have been critical in reducing pandemic-related tax return and correspondence backlogs. Additionally, the IRS must improve its recruitment and retention efforts to adequately address the backlog and increase levels of taxpayer service.

In order to gauge the extent of hiring and processing challenges still facing the Agency, we ask that you provide answers to the following questions no later than August 19, 2022:

Processing Backlogs:

  1. How do you plan to keep your promise to eliminate the backlog?
  1. What is a “healthy level” of unprocessed tax returns? How does this level align with average carryover levels, prior to the pandemic? Please provide the average carryover level over the ten years prior to FY2020, and the current carryover levels.
  1. How would you quantify a “manageable” carryover level? How does this compare to average carryover levels prior to the pandemic? Please provide a breakdown of average carryover levels for accounts management, submission processing, and returns in suspense.
  1. By how much do you estimate the carryover level will increase following the October 15, 2022 extension filing deadline?
  1. Do you believe your answers to questions 2-4 call your end-of-year estimate for a “healthy” IRS into question?
  1. For this filing season, what is the average refund delivery period? For comparison, please provide the average refund delivery period over the past ten years including the COVID-19 pandemic and excluding the COVID-19 pandemic.
  1. How long will the surge teams continue?  Will they continue through the end of the fiscal or calendar year, or beyond?
  1. What effect does the use of surge teams to process the backlog have on the IRS’ other activities, particularly answering phones?
  1. What steps is the Agency taking to speed up its processing of tax returns? Please specifically note whether the agency prioritizes the processing of returns with refunds.
  1. What is the status of IRS efforts to implement scanning technology, as recommended by the NTA?

Hiring Challenges:

  1. How many contractors is the IRS currently utilizing? How do contractors factor into the IRS’ stated hiring goals for submission processing and accounts management positions?

We appreciate your consideration of these requests and attention to these issues.

###

Recent Posts


Jun 21, 2024
Womens' Issues

Ahead of Two-Year Anniversary of Dobbs Decision, Spanberger Helps Lead Bicameral Effort to Repeal Antiquated Law Restricting Abortion

The “Stop Comstock Act” Would Block Future Administrations from Using 150-Year-Old Statute to Ban the Mailing of Mifepristone & Other Drugs Used in Medication Abortions WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today helped introduce bicameral legislation in response to clear intent by extreme politicians and judges to misuse an archaic law from the 1800s […]



Jun 21, 2024
Womens' Issues

Spanberger Statement Marking Two Years Since Supreme Court Overturned Roe v. Wade 

Congresswoman: “On the Second Anniversary of this Dark Day in Our Nation’s History, We Must Recommit Ourselves to Codifying Roe v. Wade and Resisting All Attempts to Turn Back the Clock on Women’s Rights” WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today released the following statement ahead of Monday, June 24, 2024 — two years […]



Jun 20, 2024
Press

Spanberger, Carey Lead Bipartisan Effort to Waive Passport Fees for Family Visiting Injured Servicemembers Abroad

The “No Passport Fees for Heroes’ Families Act” Would Apply to Family Members Visiting Injured Servicemembers Who Are Not Yet Medically Cleared to Travel Back to the United States WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and Mike Carey (R-OH-15) introduced bipartisan legislation to waive passport fees for family members obtaining a passport for […]