October 14, 2021

The IRS Backlog: A Taxing Situation

Lee Osborne, CPA, CFE

The landscape in the world of a tax provider looks differently these days as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is overwhelmed with high call volumes – creating a trickle-down effect that will ultimately be felt by most taxpayers as they work with their tax representatives to keep up with the ever-changing tax laws and requirements.

According to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, while testifying at a recent Congressional hearing – in the busiest part of this year’s filing season, IRS call assistors received 1,500 calls a second. That means the IRS is only answering 2% of all calls. A majority of tax professionals reaching out with questions receive a “courtesy disconnect” or they simply don’t have the time to remain on hold for extended periods.

The Internal Revenue Service is inundated with the volume of returns yet to be processed and phone calls for assistance. “The level of service is at its lowest historically, with more calls coming in daily than ever,” said Stephen Mankowski, tax chair of the National Conference of CPA Practitioners.

And it’s not a static situation, Mankowski emphasized, noting that as IRS works to catch up on returns already filed, more are coming in. “Paper returns have piled up — there are 5.5 million Form 1040s and over 4 million business returns that have been opened but not processed,” he added.

As the IRS continues to be inundated with phone calls, the number of people in the queue is determined by the number of assistants available. The volume of calls coming in – especially with regard to the Child Tax Credit – are intensifying the backlog.

But it goes beyond just hiring more personnel. Even if they had the money and the people willing to work, there are systems that new hires need to be trained on and it takes at least 12 to 18 weeks to train someone to assist callers.

So, what does all this translate into for taxpayers? Simply be aware of what tax providers are facing at this time, and while there may be challenges caused by these extremely low service levels by the IRS, we are still doing our very best for those we serve. Hopefully in the very near future, more resources will be allocated to the IRS along with the incorporation of a modern technological infrastructure.

Lee M. Osborne, CPA, CFE, is the President of Osborne Rincon CPAs. During his 30+ years in public accounting, Lee has done extensive work in many areas, including agriculture, retail sales, the service industry and manufacturing. Osborne Rincon is one of the oldest and most respected full-service accounting firms in the Coachella Valley. To learn more, call (760) 777-9805 or go to www.OsborneRincon.com.

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