The IRS Has a Backlog of Nearly 24 Million Tax Forms

REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

The nation’s revenue service is facing a backlog of nearly 24 million tax returns filed last year, according to a report in The Washington Post. The pileup is delaying the processing of returns for millions of taxpayers by as much as 10 months, and is expected to slow the processing of returns filed in 2022 as well.

The latest tally, which is considerably larger than the 10 million reported earlier this year, was recently provided to Congress by the taxpayer advocate service at the IRS. Officials at the IRS told the Post that the agency, hobbled by the coronavirus pandemic and struggling with an increased workload that includes processing Covid relief payments, is having trouble hiring and training new employees to help clear the backlog.

A group of Republican senators sent a letter last week to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig expressing their concern about the situation, calling it “untenable.” They suggested ways to address the backlog, including halting the issuance of liens, providing tax penalty relief and expediting the processing of forms.

The IRS has announced that it is considering suspending some tax enforcement and would be forming a 1,200-strong “surge team” to focus on the backlog. But Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, said over the weekend that the agency needs more money and that the dire situation at the IRS is the result of a long campaign against the agency by Republicans in Congress, who continue to lobby against providing sufficient funding. “For decades, Republicans have starved the IRS of funding, and now American taxpayers are paying the price,” Neal said. “The backlog of tax returns is but one symptom of the fundamental issue that has been ailing the IRS for too long: inadequate resources.”

By the numbers: The IRS said the backlog consists of 23.7 million returns that require individual processing. According to the Post, the total includes 9.7 million paper returns that need to be reviewed by hand; 4.1 million returns that have been flagged because of issues related to Covid relief payments; 4.1 million returns that have been amended and must be reviewed; and 5.8 million letters that need to be addressed before related returns can be completed.

“This entire ecosystem of pending cases gives the public a fuller picture of what the IRS is up against,” Chad Hooper, executive director of the nonprofit Professional Managers Association, which represents managers in the federal government, told the Post. “And it’s a crazy number before most people have filed their taxes for this year.”

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