The Internal Revenue Service continues to struggle with issues related to staff shortages, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said.

In a May 2, 2022, interim report on the 2022 filing season, the IG stated that “significant staffing shortages continue to hamper the IRS’s efforts to address backlog inventories and continue to affect the IRS’s ability to ensure that current year tax returns are processed timely.”

The data in the report comes from March and predates a number of appearances of IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig before Congress where he has pledged that barring another significant spike in the pandemic or some other unforeseen issue, the backlogged inventories will be back to “healthy” by the end of the year.

The report highlights the agency’s overall “IRS Get Healthy Initiatives” and states the IG will be performing separate reviews on how the agency is addressing the backlog as well as hiring shortfalls.

The IG reported that as of March 15, 2022, the IRS onboarded 521 submission processing employees, or 9.5 percent of the hiring goal of 5,437, although Rettig has testified before Congress that in-person and virtual job fairs have yielded higher numbers since then and those hired should be onboarded and complete their training in June. The IG also reported that as of March 17, 2022, the agency onboarded 3,827 accounts management employees, or 76.5 percent of the hiring goal of 5,000 for the 2022 tax season.

Five staffing concerns were highlighted by the report, including:

  • The use of a seasonal workforce that does not provide permanent employment or desirable schedules and shifts;
  • Entry-level salaries that are lower than what can be obtained in private industry;
  • Applicants who apply for multiple jobs, reducing the true number of candidates available to fill vacancies;
  • Applicants who fail to respond to or pass pre-screnning or do not show up to work after they have been hired; and
  • Long onboarding times.

IG estimates that as of the week ending March 12, 2022, there are nearly 5 million paper tax returns that still need to be processed. Through March 4, for the 2022 filing season, the IRS received nearly 55 million returns, including 1.5 million paper returns, which is 15 percent lower than the paper returns received in roughly the same window (March 5, 2021) during the previous year’s tax filing season.

As of March 4, the IRS has issued about 38 million refunds totaling $129.2 billion. Both represent increases from the same time in the previous tax filing season through March 5 that had about 36 million refunds issued totaling $107.8 billion.

Rettig Defends Budget Request Before Senate Appropriations Committee

Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig appeared May 3 before the Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee to defend the White House budget request for fiscal year 2023.

During the hearing, Commissioner Rettig testified on a number of the usual topics, noting the backlog of unprocessed returns and other written correspondence should be at a “healthy” level by the end of the year, assuming no other spikes in the pandemic or other unanticipated issues, as well as improvements to the workforce due to direct hiring authority granted by Congress, and the need for more funding to update and improve the IT infrastructure. He also touched on the need for more enforcement personnel to help close the tax gap, reiterating that enforcement will be targeted toward the wealthy who are avoiding paying taxes and not the low and middle income taxpayers.