IRS under fire over wasted billions of dollars and millions in backlogs

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Published Friday, May 20, 2022
by Casey Harper | The Center Square

(The Center Square) - Lawmakers continued to raise concerns about the Internal Revenue Service at a Congressional hearing this week as the agency deals with billions in misspent dollars, hefty processing backlogs, and complaints over poor customer service.

Lawmakers lobbed questions at the tax-collecting agency during the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee hearing.

"The program has an annual improper payment rate of around 25 percent. In the latest fiscal year, the improper payment amount totaled $19 billion," Rep. Tom Rice, R-S.C., said at the hearing this week.

Rice said the agency has 16 million unprocessed returns. Critics have blasted the agency for months for its backlog of millions of returns. Others pointed to the poor customer service at the IRS, an agency that has struggled to keep up with call volume from Americans asking for help.

"I believe that the most significant unfairness facing American taxpayers right now is the lack of customer service at the IRS," Rice said.

"At the same time, IRS phone service levels are near an all-time low, making it nearly impossible to reach an IRS agent for help with tax or audit matters," he added. "Many taxpayers have been waiting for resolutions to their tax filings and to receive long overdue refunds. This is unfair and needs to be fixed."

Lawmakers from both parties have sent a series of letters to the IRS asking questions and looking for solutions. A bipartisan group of over 100 members of Congress sent a letter to the IRS in March about some of these issues.

"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."

A group of Republicans sent a similar letter in January.

"Since the start of the pandemic, Members of Congress have been expressing concerns about the unfolding crisis and urging you to take action to resolve the backlog as soon as possible," the letter said. "We understand that at this point significant tradeoffs may be required at the agency to meaningfully reduce the backlog in the next few weeks, but we think the time for such tradeoffs and drastic action is now."

The IRS has defended its work, pointing out it was given an array of new responsibilities during President Joe Biden's first year in office.

"The IRS's response to COVID-19 included delivering more than $800 billion in Economic Impact Payments (EIP) to help Americans cope with the financial effects of COVID-19, and delivering more than 200 million advance payments of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) totaling $93 billion to eligible families between July and December of last year," said Kenneth Corbin, an IRS official helping lead "taxpayer experience" issues for the agency who testified at the hearing.

Corbin also pointed out that IRS officials warned Americans to file early and accurately to avoid delays.

"For that reason, the IRS worked diligently to encourage people to take extra precautions this year to allow them to receive their refund quickly and avoid processing delays," Corbin said. "For example, we encouraged people to file electronically, file an accurate return and request a direct deposit of their refund."

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