IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, writing in an ongoing series of articles about various functions of IRS, provided an overview of a number of key areas affecting taxpayers as of early September.
Rettig noted that "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."
According to Rettig, the agency has processed all error-free paper and e-filed individual tax returns received prior to April 2021. The inventory of the remaining individual tax returns is being reduced by about a million a week. "It's critically important to get back to our regular levels before the tax season begins in early 2022 because we are hoping to be back to normal operations next year for processing returns and tax refunds," he said.
IRS is currently opening mail within normal timeframes, Rettig noted. "We typically receive between 1 million and 1.5 million pieces of mail each week and are able to process that amount on a weekly basis," he said.
A return may be subject to manual review if agency systems detect a possible error or spot missing information, or if there is suspected identity theft or fraud. "This work does not require us to correspond with taxpayers but does require special handling by an IRS employee so, in these instances, it is taking the IRS more than the normal 21 days to issue any related refund, and in some cases, this work could take 90 to 120 days," Rettig explained.
He also noted that IRS is having to correct significantly more errors on tax returns than in previous years. From Jan. 1 through Aug. 11, 2021, IRS manually made approximately 11 million math error corrections, with approximately 9.1 million related to the Recovery Rebate Credit.
Taxpayers who are waiting on a refund should continue to check the Where's My Refund? tool, Rettig stressed. In most cases, telephone assistors do not have any additional information.
Phone volumes have reached unprecedented levels, he said. IRS has received more than 199 million phone calls since January 2021. "This means that in just six months, we've received nearly five times more calls than our normal call volume for an entire year."
Between Oct. 1, 2020, and Sept. 4, 2021, IRS answered by live assistance and automated services more than 68.5 million calls. An additional 1,000 Customer Service Representatives were added to this workforce during the summer of 2021. They are now undergoing tax law and tax account training.
Rettig also brought attention to a valuable resource for both tax professionals and taxpayers. "The IRS created a special status of operations page that is updated frequently to provide general updates on our progress and steps to help taxpayers or tax professionals," he said.
The commissioner's article is available here.