IRS backlog update: Long wait times on phone

The report on taxpayer challenges comes a day after the IRS announced it is on track to clear its 2021 tax arrears this week.

WASHINGTON — It’s Groundhog Day at the IRS.

After clearing a disheartening backlog from 2021, the agency has even more backup for this tax season than it had a year ago, and its pace of processing paper returns is slowing, according to a watchdog report released Wednesday.

The National Taxpayer Advocate, an independent regulator within the IRS, also said taxpayers are experiencing increased wait times on the phone and delays in processing paper returns ranging from six months to a year.

The report on taxpayer challenges, which must be presented to Congress twice a year, comes a day after the Internal Revenue Service announced it is on track to clear its backlog of 2021 tax returns this week.

The Objectives Report to Congress includes suggestions for lawmakers to consider.

“Six months ago, when I submitted my annual report to Congress, I wrote that ‘paper is the kryptonite of the IRS, and the agency is still buried in it,'” wrote National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins in the report. “Fast forward to these goals Report: It’s groundhog day.”

She added, “In late May, the IRS had a larger backlog of paper returns than it had a year ago, and its pace of processing paper returns has slowed.”

Collins, who serves as IRS Ombudsman, said of the agency’s problems, “The math is daunting.”

According to the report, the agency had a backlog of 21.3 million unprocessed paper tax returns at the end of May, up 1.3 million from the same time last year. The agency fell short of its goal of hiring 5,473 new employees to process returns, with just 2,056 hires.

Additionally, phone wait times increased to an average of 29 minutes, compared to the average wait time of 20 minutes last year.

“That the backlog continues to widen is deeply worrying, especially as millions of taxpayers have waited six months or more for their refunds,” Collins said.

Jodie Reynolds, a spokeswoman for the IRS, said the report’s figures were “neither the most accurate nor the most recent figures.”

“Today, the IRS is way ahead of the curve in processing tax returns compared to a year ago,” Reynolds said. “The IRS continues to make significant progress in taking stock,” she said, hiring new contractors, shifting staff and ordering overtime.

In a joint letter to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who heads the Senate Finance Committee, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo and IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said about six to eight IRS employees manually process each paper statement submitted.

“What the agency needs to avoid such a crisis in the future is sustained, multi-year funding to invest in overhauling outdated technology, improving taxpayer service, and increasing voluntary compliance,” the letter reads.

“These resources will be critical to automating operations to increase efficiency.”

Tony Reardon, President of the National Treasury Employees Union, said: “No one feels the pressure of backlogs more than frontline workers who have been sifting through this paperwork for months.”

“Employees working on the backlog have been doing so throughout the pandemic at IRS facilities across the country,” working overtime to clear the backlog.

He said the IRS “urgently needs more staff, more resources and updated technology, all of which are necessary to avoid future arrears.”

The Taxpayer Advocate’s report says the agency’s leadership is responsible for the burden it is bearing on “an extraordinarily complicated tax code, outdated technology, understaffing and ongoing challenges arising from the proliferation of COVID-19-related programs.” , carries.

“Despite these challenges, the tax system as a whole has held up well over the past two years,” says the report. IRS backlog update: Long wait times on phone

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