Millions of taxpayers were left in limbo as the Internal Revenue Service delayed payouts of refunds for months due to an unprecedented backlog of paper returns, according to a new report by the Taxpayer Advocate Service. The report found that taxpayers who filed paper tax returns waited for an average of six months or more because of delays while processing returns in 2022. Many taxpayers and professionals were left in the dark as only 13% of calls to the toll-free IRS hotline were connected to actual IRS employees. “The main focus of this year’s report is the elephant in the room – the continuing customer service challenges taxpayers are experiencing and the negative impact of the filing season backlog,” National Taxpayer Advocate Erin M. Collins wrote in the report. “...The bad news is that taxpayers and tax professionals experienced more misery in 2022.”
Collins wrote that there might be some hope for relief in 2023 compared to the past two years. The IRS began 2022 with 4.7 million backlogged individual paper returns from 2021. This year, the IRS has significantly reduced its backlogged individual returns to 400,000. To achieve this result, the IRS assigned more customer service and enforcement employees to deal with the backlog from the previous year instead of managing the returns from 2022, according to Collins. This decision contributed to poor customer service. In 2022, only one in every eight calls was connected to an IRS telephone assister, with an average hold time of 29 minutes, Collins wrote. Tax professionals are at their limits.
“Tax professionals are key to a successful tax administration,” Collins wrote. “The challenges of the past three filing seasons have pushed tax professionals to their limits, raising client doubts in their abilities and creating a loss of trust in the system – often through no fault of the tax professional.” Collins recommended the IRS use its additional funding from the Inflation Reduction Act, passed by Congress in August, to expand its human resources department to expedite the hiring process for new IRS employees. Collins also recommends the IRS should embrace technological solutions such as Document Uploader Tools to create a robust and accessible online filing process to relieve the backlog. To read more click here.
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