Take a closer look at how pandemic-related issues are still causing the IRS to experience record levels of activity that affect operations and how, despite that, the agency is making progress and serving taxpayers.
By Chuck Rettig
CL-21-26, September 14, 2021
The IRS plays an important role in serving our country. We interact with more Americans than any other U.S. government agency – virtually every individual and business in the country. We process 96 percent of the funding for our nation’s vital programs, but our agency and our people have had to really step up in the past year and a half to provide even more support to Americans in need. And just like businesses and other agencies around the country, we had to pause or modify some operations during the pandemic until we had safe and secure remote options in place to enable our employees to perform their work and serve taxpayers. I am extremely proud of the dedication of our workforce toward helping American taxpayers fulfill their tax responsibilities and resolve tax issues while they dealt with the COVID-19 situation.
While we had to temporarily scale back operations, important economic relief measures passed by Congress during the pandemic gave us many new responsibilities, and we have proudly worked to deliver Economic Impact Payments, advance payments of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and many other critical initiatives in 2020 and 2021. We appreciate and understand the frustration caused by the high volume of manually processed returns, the limited information available to taxpayers about the status of the return processing, the refund delays, and the difficulty reaching IRS employees. We also understand that complex tax issues, recent legislation and the pandemic have record numbers of taxpayers looking for help.
At every turn, our employees have gone above and beyond during the pandemic to keep our operations going, and through it all, we have appreciated the patience and understanding of taxpayers and the tax community. Even so, and despite our best efforts, pandemic-related issues are still causing us to experience record levels of activity that continue to affect operations across the agency, including the processing of tax returns and refunds. To put this in perspective, the IRS has received 199 million phone calls the first six months of this year – five times the normal annual volume – and we have manually reviewed 11 times more tax returns this year (11 million) to correct errors and gather missing information from taxpayers.
I am committed to ensuring the IRS will continue to do all we can to serve taxpayers. During the pandemic, we have had to find new ways to pursue our mission. As we faced enormous challenges, we didn’t always get it right, but we worked hard, often with limited resources. Where possible, we have redeployed resources to accommodate the increased demand. Our goal is to provide the quality of assistance taxpayers deserve, but we have been unable to satisfy this goal despite recent efforts to overcome significant challenges. On behalf of the entire IRS workforce, I want to assure you we will continue making progress, working together with Congress, the Administration and our partners inside and outside the tax community.
We know this has been and continues to be a frustrating time for many taxpayers and tax professionals – and it’s been a challenging time for all of us at the IRS as well. We have done the best we could under the circumstances, and we will continue to do our best as we face the current challenges. Our response to the unprecedented COVID challenges – including issuing almost $1.5 trillion in combined historic economic relief and individual refunds – illustrates the importance of every American to the IRS and the importance of the IRS to every American. I want to give you a glimpse of what we’re facing inside the IRS, and what we’re doing – to help struggling taxpayers and to get caught up during this unprecedented time.
See more on Commissioner Rettig’s comments on the Status of Operations.