IRS taxpayers face hurdles before July 15 filing deadline

The IRS and taxpayers face a number of obstacles before crossing the finish line in this year’s longer-than-usual tax filing season.

The coronavirus prompted the IRS in March to extend the deadline for people to file their 2019 returns and pay their 2019 taxes, from April 15 to July 15. In addition to processing the statements during that time, the agency also had to implement COVID-19 relief measures approved by Congress in the spring.

The virus also caused the IRS in March to direct most of its employees to work remotely, stopping key agency functions that cannot be performed remotely. When she began bringing employees back to their workplaces in recent weeks, workers faced a backlog of tax returns to process and taxpayers to help.

“While we had to adjust and reallocate resources during the pandemic, our employees have remained dedicated to delivering the 2020 filing season,” IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said during a Senate Finance Committee hearing Tuesday.

During the pandemic, the agency processed electronic returns, issued direct deposit refunds, and accepted electronic payments, Rettig said. She added that as part of the agency’s gradual reopening, employees are processing paper tax returns, responding to mail, and reopening phone lines.

“We are prioritizing rebates and customer service operations, as well as the health and safety of our employees and everyone we interact with,” Rettig said.

The IRS announced Monday that it will no longer extend the July 15 deadlines for people to file and pay their 2019 taxes. The agency said people who need additional time to file can apply for an extension until October 15. , and that people who cannot pay their taxes in full before July 15 can take advantage of a number of payment options.

Most people have already filed their tax returns, though the IRS has processed fewer returns and issued fewer refunds than at this time last year.

The IRS said Thursday that as of June 26, it had processed around 129 million returns, 10.6 percent less compared to the same period last year. As of June 19, it had issued around 94 million rebates, 10.3 percent less than this point in 2019.

Lawmakers and IRS watchdog groups are concerned about those slowdowns.

National taxpayer advocate Erin Collins, who runs an independent office within the IRS that helps taxpayers resolve problems with the agency, said in a report released Monday that the IRS had estimated that as of May 16, it had a portfolio of 4.7 million paper tax returns. .

Collins said some taxpayers have experienced delays in obtaining their refunds due to IRS filtering by mistake, and the agency has not yet processed the mailed responses from many taxpayers justifying their claims. She said some of those delays have occurred for taxpayers who claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit – two tax breaks for low- and middle-income families.

Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Chuck grassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest Grassley Congressman prepares for battle over expiring unemployment benefits United States and Mexico ready for new post-NAFTA trade era Senators pressure IRS chief on stimulus control traps (R-Iowa) asked Rettig during Tuesday’s hearing about the delay of the returns that the EITC claims, as well as the delay of the mail.

“How long do you expect the IRS to take to address the backlog and are there procedures for prioritizing certain types of correspondence, such as tax returns and audit requests?” Grassley asked.

Rettig called EITC returns “an extreme priority,” and that the agency hopes to address those returns as quickly as possible.

He calculated the agency’s total order book at approximately 12.3 million correspondence. As the agency checks her email, she said, she is prioritizing paper tax returns. He added that many of those paper returns can claim EITC-related refunds.

Senators also pressured Rettig on the reopening of IRS facilities across the country.

Rettig said that all of the agency’s processing facilities and call centers will be open in mid-July, with socially distanced employees, and that taxpayer assistance centers should also be open in mid-July. Rettig also said in his written statement that the IRS has had more than 50,000 employees telecommuting, and that they will continue to work remotely for now.

The IRS has worked closely on the reopening with the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), which represents the agency’s employees, Rettig said.

NTEU President Tony Reardon told The Hill that employees are concerned about returning to their offices, saying he heard reports from some workplaces that they do not have enough hand sanitizer or do not strictly enforce social distancing policies.

“My members are extremely concerned and anxious about having to return to the workplace,” he said.

Reardon also released a statement calling for the closure of the IRS service center in Austin, Texas, saying that coronavirus cases have increased in the area and that there have been 29 positive coronavirus cases among IRS employees at that site since 1 of June.

Texas officials announced nearly 7,000 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, breaking the state record for the total number of confirmed cases in one day. On Thursday, Governor Greg Abbott (R) issued an order forcing all Texans to cover their faces while in public.

The IRS said in a statement that “while there are increases in IRS cases in Texas, these cases correlate with the state’s increased testing and tracking capabilities.”

“The IRS emphasizes that most of the increase in positive case reports are employees who have been out of the workplace for long periods, in some cases since mid-March. These are not necessarily related to the reopening of the IRS, ”the agency said. “We continue to closely monitor the situation. The safety of our employees and taxpayers remains a top priority. “

Since employees began to return to their workplaces, the IRS has started sending collection notices that have raised concerns from IRS legislators and vigilantes.

The agency has been sending out some notices, printed before the coronavirus-related closings, with expiration dates that have already passed, along with inserts that provide updated information on the expiration date. Some of these notices were sent to taxpayers about the balances owed on their 2019 taxes, even though those payments don’t expire until July 15.

The IRS said in a statement that it is sending the original notices along with the inserts, rather than issuing updated notices, due to the amount of time it would take to reprogram the systems and generate new notices. IRS management has said it sent notices to people about their 2019 taxes in an effort to comply with the requirement to send notices to taxpayers before beginning a compliance action.

But lawmakers and vigilantes worry that taxpayers will be confused when they receive the original notices with inserts.

“Receiving a notice with incorrect and conflicting dates can cause unnecessary confusion for many taxpayers,” said the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Richard NealRichard Edmund NealOn The Money: Breaking Down The June Employment Report | The biggest threats facing recovery | What will the next stimulus bill include? Democratic leaders are much more progressive than you think On The Money: Governors reconsider opening bars and restaurants amid rising COVID-19 cases | Key cases threaten fragile economic recovery | Supreme Court rules that director of consumer office can be fired at will MORE (D-Mass.) And Rep. John LewisJohn Lewis We must go beyond ‘the rank of a mere citizen’ Warnock raises almost M in the Georgia Senate race in the second quarter Texans catcher Kenny Stills displays the ‘Black Lives Matter’ tattoo in honor of the MORE protesters (D-Ga.), Chairman of the Forms and Media Oversight Subcommittee, said in a letter to the IRS last month.

While the IRS is working to end this year’s filing season, it’s also starting to think about the next one.

The agency has said that people who did not receive the full coronavirus stimulus payment to which they are entitled can claim it in the 2020 tax returns they file next year. Lawmakers expect the IRS to take steps to ensure that taxpayers don’t have to wait until next year to receive their full payments.

“With a record number of recently unemployed or financially insecure Americans, it would be irresponsible to further delay the emergency assistance that Americans desperately need now,” Neal and Lewis said Wednesday in a letter to Rettig.