Internal Revenue Service Struggles to Find Footing Post-Shutdown

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is beginning their busiest season a few steps behind as employees return to work following the government shutdown. As the IRS works to recover, Americans all over the country may feel the impact of this backlog come filing season.

During the government shutdown 12.5 percent of IRS employees were working, and the agency later called 46,000 employees back to work without pay to prepare for filing season.

According to Forbes a report, at one point during the shutdown, the IRS was receiving 700,000 pieces of mail per day, nearly three times what they normally receive. Forbes’ Kelly Phillips Erb explains, “As the shutdown dragged on, in-person taxpayer assistance centers, fax lines and phone systems were closed. That meant that taxpayers and tax professionals were forced to send all requests—even routine requests—by U.S. Mail.”

This has contributed to a current backlog of 5 million unanswered pieces of mail.

Aside from the backlog, the IRS has also struggled with hiring due to the government shutdown.

CBS News reported that some IRS workers quit during the shutdown.  Even more significantly, the agency was forced to delay the temporary hiring of thousands of employees normally brought on during tax season.

Thomas Burger, Executive Director of the Professional Managers Association, which was created to represent IRS managers, released a statement following the government reopening noting, “The IRS has been underfunded and understaffed for much of the last decade, and coupled with significant revisions to the tax code, this year’s filing season will be challenging for IRS employees and American taxpayers alike. Nonetheless, PMA members and their fellow public servants who work for the IRS are eager to return to their posts – with pay – to do everything in their power to ensure the continued successful operation and maintenance of the tax season.”

FEDmanager previously wrote about the decline of the IRS here.

Not only is the IRS returning to work in the middle of tax season, but this is also the first filing season which reflects the Republicans’ 2017 tax cut law.

The IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said in a news release, “The dedicated IRS employees have worked tirelessly to successfully implement the biggest tax law changes in 30 years and launch tax season for the nation. Although we face various near- and longer-term challenges, our employees are committed to doing everything we can to help taxpayers and get refunds out quickly.”

Rettig recommended taxpayers minimize errors and speed up the process by using e-file and IRS Free File systems, as well as direct deposit.

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