Spanberger Presses IRS Commissioner for Answers about Delayed Returns to Virginia Taxpayers

The Congresswoman has Long Demanded Transparency from the IRS & Pushed to Cut Down its Major Backlog of Unprocessed Tax Returns

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — In direct response to the concerns of Virginians still waiting on their tax returns, U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today called on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to expedite efforts to reduce its tax return backlog.

IRS figures released in April 2022 showed a backlog of more than 2.5 million unprocessed tax returns from 2021, as well as more than 8.9 million from 2022.

In a letter sent to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, Spanberger outlined her concerns about how the ongoing backlog is impacting the IRS and its Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), which assists U.S. taxpayers with delays that are difficult to resolve through routine IRS channels. Recently, the IRS informed Congress that the TAS will not accept cases for unprocessed mail returns until October 15, 2022. Spanberger made clear that this major delay will hamper the ability of Virginia families, seniors, and small businesses to receive timely resolutions for their specific IRS cases — especially for Virginians who filed a paper tax return.

“Given TAS’ crucial role in assisting taxpayers, I am deeply concerned the backlog is so severe that TAS recently notified congressional offices they will limit their acceptance of cases regarding unprocessed 2021 returns filed on paper until at least October 15,” said Spanberger. “This decision, due to the paper-based backlog at the IRS, significantly impacts congressional offices’ ability to serve their constituents, and disproportionately harms seniors, rural residents, small business owners, freelance workers, and lower-income filers, who are more likely to file on paper through the mail or file amended returns.”

Spanberger continued, “I request an update on the current state of the backlog, including the number of paper-filed returns that have yet to be opened, the number of paper-filed returns that have yet to be processed, the percentage of those paper returns that are original versus amended, the number of unprocessed individual returns, and the number of unprocessed small business returns. I also respectfully request an update on the IRS’ efforts to hire an additional 10,000 employees by the end of the year to address the backlog including how many individuals have been hired, how many have been trained and placed in their role, and an updated projected timeline for hiring.”

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

Dear Commissioner Rettig,

Thank you for your ongoing work to eliminate the unprecedented backlog at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and to mitigate the backlog’s impact on taxpayers. However, I write to share my deep concern about the backlog’s impact on the Taxpayer Advocate Service’s (TAS) ability to accept inquiries from congressional caseworkers and the subsequent disproportionate impact on seniors, rural residents, small business owners, freelance workers, and lower-income filers.

In March, you testified that the IRS will be able to reach a healthy backlog by the end of calendar year 2022. I appreciate the efforts the IRS has made to surge and allow for maximum overtime options for current employees to address the backlog and hiring efforts to onboard new employees. I understand the impact of the paper-based backlog continues to impact IRS’ operations, and therefore impacts TAS as well. As you know, TAS is an invaluable resource to congressional caseworkers and has helped my office solve hundreds of cases for taxpayers.

Given TAS’ crucial role in assisting taxpayers, I am deeply concerned the backlog is so severe that TAS recently notified congressional offices they will limit their acceptance of cases regarding unprocessed 2021 returns filed on paper until at least October 15. This decision, due to the paper-based backlog at the IRS, significantly impacts congressional offices’ ability to serve their constituents, and disproportionately harms seniors, rural residents, small business owners, freelance workers, and lower-income filers, who are more likely to file on paper through the mail or file amended returns.

For 2020 filings, TAS was unable to accept amended return cases, which presented significant challenges for congressional caseworkers to provide timely and substantive responses to constituents. I am deeply concerned TAS is even more restricted in their ability to accept inquiries for 2021 filings by limiting both amended returns and any paper-filed returns for unprocessed filings until October 15. Last year, the backlog limiting TAS’ services harmed many small business owners, families who received economic impact payments, and seniors who made changes to their typical retirement withdrawals.

The backlog and subsequent limits on TAS’ services also disproportionately impacts rural residents, and lower-income filers and younger filers who do not use a tax-preparer. Additionally, freelance workers and small business owners often must file amended returns, and therefore are more likely to require TAS’ services. However, with the current restrictions due to the backlog of unprocessed returns, congressional caseworkers have few tools to pursue relief for taxpayers who filed via the mail.

As such, I request an update on the current state of the backlog, including the number of paper-filed returns that have yet to be opened, the number of paper-filed returns that have yet to be processed, the percentage of those paper returns that are original versus amended, the number of unprocessed individual returns, and the number of unprocessed small business returns.

I also respectfully request an update on the IRS’ efforts to hire an additional 10,000 employees by the end of the year to address the backlog including how many individuals have been hired, how many have been trained and placed in their role, and an updated projected timeline for hiring.

I also strongly urge you to pursue all options to alleviate the backlog quickly so TAS can begin accepting more inquiries earlier than October 15. Thank you for your attention to this critical issue, and for the IRS’ work serving taxpayers.

BACKGROUND

Spanberger has long focused on delays and backlogs at the IRS that are impacting Virginians. In March 2022, Spanberger led a bipartisan and bicameral group of more than 100 colleagues in urging the IRS to provide much-needed relief as the agency struggled to address customer service and processing issues.

And in February 2022, Spanberger and U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ)  led a bicameral effort with 45 colleagues urging the IRS to take immediate actions to improve its customer service during the 2022 tax filing season. Shortly after sending out the letter, the IRS announced it would be putting together a second surge team to help address the massive backlog and continue to improve customer service.

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