Spanberger, Menendez Lead Bicameral Effort Urging IRS to Clear Backlog, Improve Customer Service for Taxpayers During 2022 Filing Season

Letter Comes as Lawmakers Continue to Work with Constituents Who are Waiting for 2020 Tax Returns or Cannot Reach IRS Customer Service Representatives

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07) and U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today led a bicameral effort urging the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to take immediate actions to reduce its massive backlog, improve its customer service, and reduce disruptions for taxpayers during the 2022 tax filing season.

In a joint letter sent to IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig, Spanberger and Menendez led 45 of their colleagues in highlighting Americans’ challenges in their day-to-day interactions with the IRS — with many constituents even still waiting on their 2020 tax returns.

In response, they pressed the agency to take new actions that can reduce the existing backlog. Specifically, the lawmakers called for the IRS to consider pursuing maximum overtime options for its staff, expanding its surge teams to address processing and correspondence delays, and seeking fast ways to train additional employees and volunteers.

“As the IRS works to eliminate the current backlog of returns and correspondence, we request you to pursue additional actions to maximize the IRS’ current workforce to address the backlog in order to reduce disruptions this filing season,” said Spanberger, Menendez, and their colleagues.

They continued, “We continue to hear from constituents who are still waiting for their 2020 tax returns, have received confusing notices about overdue payments they already paid, and cannot reach anyone at the IRS for assistance. Many of these problems stem from the millions of unprocessed correspondence items from 2021. We understand the long-term solution to ensure the IRS can manage its workload and provide timely and high-quality service to taxpayers is additional resources to hire and train employees across several departments and modernize technologies. However, those investments will take time, and taxpayers require more immediate relief, especially with the 2022 filing season already underway.”

The bicameral Spanberger-Menendez letter to Commissioner Rettig is also signed by U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Diane Feinstein (D.-C.A.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

Additionally, their letter is signed by U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.-03), Judy Chu (D-Calif.-27), Chrissy Houlahan (D-Penn.-06), Rick Larsen (D-Wash.-02), Donald Norcross (D-N.J.-01), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.-09), Katie Porter (D-Calif.-45), Jaimie Raskin (D-Md.-08), Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.-03), Seth Moulton (D-Mass.-06), Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.-35), Susie Lee (D-NV-03), and Doris Matsui (D-Calif.-06).

The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA) and the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) both supported the letter.

“As Senator Menendez, Congresswoman Spanberger, and their colleagues accurately describe in their letter, IRS’ current backlog is a persistent problem that must be addressed by the agency — and we are grateful for the tireless work of these Members on this issue,” said Edward Karl, CPA, CGMA, Vice President of Taxation, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA). “Allowing maximum overtime options for IRS employees working on the processing backlog and identifying additional employees who can volunteer to be quickly re-trained to work on surge teams is a common-sense solution to increasing IRS man-hours spent on the backlog.”

“Senator Menendez, Representative Spanberger and their colleagues have identified several practical, immediate steps the IRS can take to alleviate the agency’s backlog and improve service to American taxpayers,” said Tony Reardon, National President, National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU). “NTEU supports their recommendation that the agency use volunteers from the current IRS workforce, plus additional overtime pay, for temporary reassignments to divisions that need the extra assistance. As Senator Menendez and Representative Spanberger note, these changes must be followed by additional long-term investments in order to rebuild the agency after 10 years of budget cuts.”

Click here to read the House letter, and click here to read the Senate letter. The full letter text is also below.

Dear Commissioner Rettig,

Thank you for your ongoing work to eliminate the unprecedented backlog at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). With the 2022 filing season underway, we continue to be concerned about the backlog’s impact on taxpayers and congressional offices’ ability to assist constituents with IRS casework. As the IRS works to eliminate the current backlog of returns and correspondence, we request you to pursue additional actions to maximize the IRS’ current workforce to address the backlog in order to reduce disruptions this filing season.

Our teams of congressional caseworkers work to provide timely assistance to constituents experiencing challenges with the IRS. We continue to hear from constituents who are still waiting for their 2020 tax returns, have received confusing notices about overdue payments they already paid, and cannot reach anyone at the IRS for assistance. Many of these problems stem from the millions of unprocessed correspondence items from 2021.

In 2020 and 2021, the IRS was integral to providing financial relief to Americans during the pandemic, such as distributing economic impact payments and monthly Child Tax Credit payments as well as processing small businesses’ filings. While we appreciate the magnitude of these endeavors and strongly believe Congress must support the IRS with the resources necessary to fulfill its responsibilities, we also recognize that there are many taxpayers still in dire need and who have legitimate concerns about the current filing season.

We understand the long-term solution to ensure the IRS can manage its workload and provide timely and high-quality service to taxpayers is additional resources to hire and train employees across several departments and modernize technologies. However, those investments will take time, and taxpayers require more immediate relief, especially with the 2022 filing season already underway. We were encouraged to see your announcements of forming surge teams to address the backlog and pursuing overtime policies. In order to maximize the impact of the current IRS workforce, we respectfully request information on the following question:

  • What are the current overtime policies for different positions working on the backlog? Please provide information on overtime policies for employees typically assigned to processing correspondence, those temporarily working on surge teams, and any other relevant positions.

Additionally, we urge you to consider the following policies:

  • Pursue maximum overtime options for staff who are working on the backlog for those who do not already have maximum overtime flexibilities.
  • Allow additional employees to volunteer to join surge teams, such as employees with prior account management experience or those who could be trained in a relatively short period of time.
  • Extend overtime options for additional surge team employees.

Thank you for your attention to this critical issue, and for the IRS’ work serving taxpayers. Your swift action on this issue will help alleviate the concerns of taxpayers across our country.

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