Washington D.C. – Taxpayers are rightfully concerned that the IRS opens the tax filing season Monday with a backlog but the agency and its workforce are depending on Congress to help them resolve the issue, NTEU National President Tony Reardon said.
“It’s fine to give Americans tips on how to speed up their refunds, but we have one big tip for Congress: Give the agency the resources it needs to dig out of the backlog hole and deliver a smooth successful filing season for all,” Reardon said. “IRS employees are ready to tackle the problem, but the real culprits here are a decade of budget cuts, a smaller workforce, increased workload and a global pandemic.”
The 2022 tax filing season opens Monday with more than 8 million unprocessed and amended tax returns leftover from the previous year, according to the National Taxpayer Advocate. Treasury officials have urged Americans to remain patient as the agency conducts the third tax filing season during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Fortunately, Congress has an IRS improvement plan already on its desk, ready to go,” Reardon said. “More than $1.5 billion, including a $385 million bump for taxpayer services, in the current fiscal year budget, followed by a 10-year, $79 billion commitment would revolutionize the agency and allow it to build back its staffing levels and resources to drastically improve customer service and enforcement of the tax code.”
Overall funding for the IRS decreased more than 22 percent on an inflation-adjusted basis from 2010-20 and resulted in the loss of 15,000 employees. And now the workload is increasing, with more taxpayers, more responsibilities to administer pandemic relief programs and more individuals and businesses needing assistance to comply with the changing tax laws.
IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said between January and August of 2021, the agency received more than 199 million calls, a 400 percent increase over the average year. According to the IRS Data Book, the number of Customer Service Representatives employed at the end of the 2010 fiscal year was 21,057. At the same time in 2020, it was 12,422. And there are half as many revenue officers and 35 percent fewer revenue agents than 10 years ago, which has left billions of dollars uncollected.
“There are about 600 IRS worksites across the country and these job losses are felt in every community in America, where there are fewer frontline IRS employees on hand to process returns, staff Taxpayer Assistance Centers and collect the revenue that is rightfully owed,” Reardon said.
Despite the austere conditions, IRS employees have persevered. Those who handle paper tax returns returned to the worksite early in the pandemic to keep the tax return pipeline working, and telework has allowed IRS workers to maintain productivity throughout.
“We agree with Commissioner Rettig that IRS employees deserve credit for adapting to the economic and health crisis with continued dedication to the mission,” Reardon said. “NTEU believes that with adequate staffing and funding and robust health and safety protections, IRS employees can succeed in all of their roles, including customer service and enforcement.”
NTEU represents federal employees in 34 federal agencies and departments.