Lawmakers Press the IRS for Answers on Taxpayer Issues
The lawmakers’ push comes as the beleaguered agency attempts to improve its customer service.
A group of bipartisan lawmakers is pushing for quick answers and solutions as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) struggles to get through a backlog of millions of unprocessed tax returns and correspondence. “We remain concerned that the IRS does not have a comprehensive plan to remedy the numerous problems affecting taxpayers, despite the fact that this filing season is already well underway,” the lawmakers wrote to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig.
“For example, there is continued confusion about which notices may be unilaterally suspended by the IRS, beyond the notices the IRS has already suspended, among other issues,” they continued.
Per CNBC, the lawmakers are aiming to get a better sense of “which notices must be issued within a certain timeframe by law, and why others still haven’t been suspended.” Last month, the tax agency temporarily halted more than a dozen types of automated letters to streamline the processing of backlogged returns. CNBC added that the lawmakers “have also asked for clarification on the process for penalty abatement.”
IRS Is Taking Action
The lawmakers’ push comes as the agency takes meaningful steps to improve its customer service and speed up the issuance of tax refunds. So far, the IRS has processed roughly fifty-three million federal tax returns and disbursed thirty-eight million refunds for a total of $129.2 billion, which amounts to an average refund of $3,401.
“IRS employees have been working tirelessly to process backlogged returns and taxpayer correspondence,” Rettig said in a statement. “To ensure inventory is back to a healthy level for next filing season, we are leaving no stone unturned—taking an all hands on deck approach to ensure as many employees as possible are dedicating time to return processing.”
The beleaguered agency has also unveiled a new Taxpayer Experience Office that will focus on “all aspects of taxpayer transactions” and work closely with the Taxpayer Advocate Service.
“The formal establishment of this office will help unify and expand efforts across the IRS to improve service to taxpayers,” Rettig said in a statement, adding that taxpayers are expected to see near-term boosts to customer callbacks, expanded payment options, secure two-way messaging, and multilingual services.
Saturday Walk-In Hours
Moreover, the agency will have available walk-in hours at dozens of Taxpayer Assistance Centers nationwide on certain Saturdays. These centers, which offer face-to-face tax services, are not typically open on weekends. But to address growing taxpayer concerns, they will be open on the second Saturdays in March, April, and May, with hours from 9 AM to 4 PM.
The IRS has also confirmed that it will soon extend the first of 5,000 job offers to help tackle its massive backlogs. The IRS plans to hire another 5,000 workers next year.
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.