IRS Expected to Stand Up Another ‘Surge Team’ to Tackle Backlog

IRS Expected to Stand Up Another ‘Surge Team’ to Tackle Backlog

The IRS is reassigning additional employees from other duties to assist with the backlog of unprocessed tax returns.

National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins said during a congressional hearing on Thursday that the Internal Revenue Service is expected to stand up a second “surge team” to address its backlog of unprocessed tax returns.

The IRS already made the decision to temporarily reassign about 1,200 employees to the frontlines of a daunting tax season to help with the backlog. 

IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig has also noted that the agency is dealing with serious staffing and budgeting issues. The agency has roughly 20,000 fewer employees and 20 percent less funding than in 2010 when adjusted for inflation, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

‘Important First Step’

According to CNN, Collins told lawmakers that the addition of another surge team is “an important first step.”

“A toxic combination of office closures early in the pandemic, inadequate staffing, antiquated IT systems and the need to divert resources from core work to administer the three rounds of stimulus payments, the monthly child tax credit payments, and several financial relief programs has created an unprecedented imbalance between the IRS’ workload and their resources,” Collins said.

Collins then went on to address the outdated processing of paper returns—which have become the IRS’ “kryptonite”—and pressed for more rapid modernization of the agency’s services.

“So, in essence, the IRS, we need to get out of the age of the dinosaur or the Dark Ages,” she said. “They look at it as a funding issue. This is a heavy lift for the IRS. They need to have sustained long-term funding in order to take on a project that size.”

Tax Season Moving Along

Despite these well-documented troubles at the IRS, the current tax season is moving along with only a few hiccups.  

“The IRS is off to a strong start to this year’s tax season,” the IRS said in a press release.

The IRS has processed about 13 million of the 16.7 million returns it has received. Of those, about 4.5 million have resulted in refunds that average $2,300.

The agency has given notice that most Americans—if they have error-free returns and file electronically—should receive their tax refunds within twenty-one days of filing.

Meanwhile, Rettig has urged taxpayers to take special care this year on their respective returns due to the sending out of the monthly enhanced child tax credit and the third stimulus check that was green-lighted in March.

“Incorrect entries when reporting these payments mean the IRS will need to further review the tax return, creating an extensive delay,” the agency wrote in a press release.

Ethen Kim Lieser is a Washington state-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.

Image: Reuters.