Republicans Press IRS for Information on Upcoming Tax Season
Their questions are on operational and workforce issues.
Almost 100 House Republicans are pressing the Internal Revenue Service for information by next week about preparations for the upcoming tax filing season after the previous two were disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
On Thursday, 99 House Republicans, including the House minority leader and whip, sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig ahead of the 2022 filing season starting in the winter. The previous two tax seasons have led to vast backlogs of unprocessed tax returns.
“IRS and [Taxpayer Advocate Service] employees are to be commended for the tremendous work they do to ensure that taxpayers receive high levels of service and assistance as they navigate the tax filing season,” wrote the lawmakers. “We are concerned, however, that they have not been given the tools to succeed, which in turn degrades the level of service American taxpayers expect and deserve.” The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an independent organization within the IRS that helps individual and business taxpayers resolve filing problems.
The lawmakers noted that according to data the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration recently provided to Congress, there are more than 9.6 million unprocessed paper returns that were received in calendar year 2021. Meanwhile, another 5 million paper returns and electronically filed returns have been suspended during their processing. “Some portion of those 5 million returns is from the 2020 filing season, though we understand that [the inspector general] is unable to categorize returns in suspension by tax year,” they noted.
A spokesperson for the Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee, which spearheaded the letter, told Government Executive on Friday that they receive regulation updates from the watchdog’s office and the data cited in the letter comes from last week’s update that they received on November 30.
Despite the fact that earlier this month the IRS launched its “Get Ready for Taxes” campaign, the Republicans said they have “serious doubts” that the IRS is prepared. Therefore, they would like answers to the following questions by December 17:
- What is the IRS’s plan to process the paper returns from previous seasons before the official start of the 2022 filing season?
- How is the IRS working to resolve issues with returns that were suspended during the 2021 season?
- Is the IRS back to work regularly in person? If not, how is it working to bring employees back and provide a safe environment?
- Will the agency use existing authority to hire extra non-enforcement employees to help process tax returns?
- How will the IRS alleviate burdens of taxpayers who have 2020 or 2021 tax returns that won’t be processed by the beginning of the 2022 filing season?
In a follow-up question, Government Executive asked the Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee if they support increased funding to the IRS, as outlined in the Build Back Better Act.
In September, “Republicans put forward a bill that provides resources to the IRS to ensure it can do its job effectively while protecting Americans’ privacy,” said the spokesperson.
“This legislation is a strong alternative to recent proposals that would write an $80 billion check to the IRS with too little forethought,” said Pete Sepp, president of the National Taxpayers Union, in a statement upon the bill’s introduction. “If lawmakers move forward with an Internal Revenue Service budget boost anyway, these reforms and more should be considered prerequisites for any major proposed increase in the IRS budget, and would both safeguard taxpayers’ rights and support taxpayers’ interest in an effective, modern, and agile IRS.”
Meanwhile, in a related development, the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents about 68,000 IRS employees, issued a statement Thursday in support of Biden’s social and climate spending package for its IRS provisions. The House already passed the package and the union encouraged the Senate to follow suit.
“Through 2031, the Build Back Better plan would add $79 billion for IRS taxpayer services, business systems modernization, operations support and enforcement activities,” said the union. “Overall funding for the IRS decreased more than 22% on an inflation-adjusted basis from 2010-20 and resulted in the loss of 15,000 employees. The customer service investment in the IRS will also restore the staffing levels at Taxpayer Assistance Centers around the country.”
In an opinion article for The Washington Post last month, Rettig urged Congress to provide his agency with funding requested by the Biden administration.
“IRS employees want to do more to help taxpayers,” such as by “ensuring that the tax system is enforced fairly, Americans receive the quality of services they deserve, and that no one feels safe cheating on their taxes,” wrote Rettig. “But to do all this, we need help. We desperately need sufficient resources to be able to appropriately serve and support you and our country.”
Rettig was appointed by President Trump and his term will expire in November 2022.
Asked for a comment on Thursday’s letter, an IRS spokesperson said the agency does not respond to congressional letters through the media.
This story has been updated with additional comment from the House Ways and Means Committee.