Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig praised the work of agency employees throughout the COVID-19 pandemic but stated that there simply are not enough of them as the agency is slowly working through the backlog the pandemic caused. “I appreciate your patience and understanding and working with us,” he said November 16 at the AICPA & CIMA National and Sophisticated Tax Planning Conferences in Washington, D.C., acknowledging how challenging it has been for them to be working with the IRS throughout the pandemic.
He also noted that during the pandemic, the agency has been receiving a significantly higher number of phone calls. By August 2021, the agency received 246 million calls being handled by less than 15,000 customer service representatives. He said that on March 15, the calls were coming in at a rate of 1,500 calls per second. By comparison, the IRS received 42 million calls in 2019 and 44 million calls in 2020.
With that in mind, Retting stated that taxpayers and the tax professionals who help them deserve the timely responses they may not be getting, whether by mail or over the phone, because of workplace protocols make some of these processes challenging and cause delays and issues between departments within the agency.
“Level of service is an appropriated item,” meaning the IRS simply could not hire more people to man the phones or open the mail without getting more money from Congress to do so. “This should help frame up for you the importance of a properly funded Internal Revenue Service.” He also noted that in the next six years, the agency is going to lose 52,000 employees.