In the latest in a long line of reports citing understaffing at the IRS and its consequences, the National Taxpayer Advocate has said the imbalance “has never been greater,” with employment down 17 percent since 2010 but with workload increasing in that time—for example, by 19 percent in individually filed returns.
In that time, “examination coverage has decreased, enforcement efforts have been negatively impacted, and the level of service has continued to drop,” said the report from the independent office. It said that while the IRS “deserves credit for playing the hand it was dealt,” there is “no way to sugarcoat the year 2021 in tax administration: From the perspective of tens of millions of taxpayers, it was horrendous.”
That included backlogs as of year-end of 6 million unprocessed original individual returns, 2.3 million unprocessed amended individual returns, more than 2 million unprocessed employer’s quarterly tax returns and about 5 million pieces of taxpayer correspondence.
There were more than 632 million attempts by taxpayers to check the status of their refunds on the online “Where’s My Refund?” tool but that tool “often did not do its job because it “does not explain any status delays, the reasons for delays, where returns stand in the processing pipeline, or what actions taxpayers need to take, if any.”
Meanwhile, call volume nearly tripled to 282 million calls but customer service representatives answered only 11 percent with average wait time for the “lucky one in nine” averaged 23 minutes, it said.
It said the 10 most serious problems encountered by the agency were: processing and refund delays; challenges in employee recruitment, hiring, and training; telephone and in-person taxpayer service; transparency and clarity; filing season delays; limitations of online taxpayer accounts; limitations in digital taxpayer communications, including e-mail; e-filing barriers; correspondence audits; and the impact of collection policies on low-income taxpayers. For each problem, the report includes an IRS response