The Hill: Democrats press IRS to address backlogs, improve customer service during filing season

THE HILL, MYCHAEL SCHNELL

Democratic lawmakers are pressing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to address a backlog of tax returns and improve customer service as the U.S. makes its way through filing season.

A group of more than 40 senators and representatives penned letters to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig on Tuesday requesting that the agency “pursue additional actions to maximize the IRS’ current workforce to address the backlog in order to reduce disruptions this filing season.”

The lawmakers, led by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), are specifically asking that the IRS allow more employees to voluntarily join surge teams and extend overtime options for those workers.

Additionally, the group is requesting the IRS provide “maximum overtime options” for staff members working to address the backlog.

The lawmakers also called attention to customer service issues. They said they have received calls from constituents who “cannot reach anyone at the IRS for assistance” for various matters.

The push from Democratic lawmakers comes weeks after Rettig warned that Americans could face delays in receiving their 2021 tax refunds because of coronavirus-related staffing issues, the implementation of new stimulus programs and a shortage of congressional funding.

He said the upcoming period “could be a very frustrating filing season for all taxpayers and tax professionals.”

The agency has also said it is having to grapple with more work because of insufficient staffing and outdated technology.

The IRS started accepting returns for 2021 taxes late last month. The filing deadline is April 18 for most Americans.

Earlier this month the agency said it was shifting 1,200 employees to help address the potential processing delays and help ameliorate the backlog of returns from 2020.

The lawmakers on Thursday said that while the “long-term solution” for ensuring the IRS can accomplish its workload and supply timely, high quality-service is hiring and training more employees and modernizing technology, those changes “will take time.”

They said taxpayers in the U.S. “require more immediate relief, especially with the 2022 filing season already underway.”

Thursday’s letters come nearly a month after Menendez led another bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers in writing a letter to Rettig and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen asking that the IRS and Treasury Department to take a number of steps “to bring immediate relief to taxpayers, and reduce the backlog, during this tax filing season.”

The Hill reached out to the IRS for comment.

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