Tax returns from last year are piling up at the Internal Revenue Service, and there aren’t nearly enough job applications to go around to fill the void.
But according to Erin Collins, national taxpayer advocate at the IRS, out of the 5,050 jobs available, only 179 have been filled thus far across all campuses.
At the same time, the IRS is dealing with a backlog of 6 million unprocessed 2021 tax returns and another 2.3 million amended returns as of the end of the month of December 2018.
Collins told Congress on Tuesday that the pay for clerical jobs that require wading through mountains of paperwork isn’t exactly enticing. Most submission-processing roles begin at a federal worker pay grade of just under $25,000 a year, according to her estimate.
She wrote in testimony to a House of Representatives Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee that “it is not surprising that the IRS is having difficulty finding enough suitable job applicants” during this labor shortage.
During a hearing, Collins told lawmakers that “it is a challenge we have in the market,” pointing out that workers at the IRS facilities need to be physically present in order to handle documents.
One IRS campus will be located in Austin, Texas, but Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat, said that the low starting pay for the jobs would not work for his constituents. It’s not a living wage in Austin, he said.
Fort Collins, steps such as higher wages, bonuses, hazard pay, and other forms of compensation are necessary. Despite this, she remains pessimistic, believing that “we will be unable to hire enough people to get us out of this hole.
A “surge team” of 1,200 IRS employees has been put in place to deal with the backlog, the agency announced last week. Collins called it a “good first step” on Tuesday. There is still a need for more than 1,200, she said.
In the fiscal year 2021, the IRS had nearly 82,000 employees, including more than 10,500 seasonal employees.
In the early stages of the pandemic, the IRS had to balance the distribution of three rounds of stimulus checks, Child Tax Credit payments, and other tax-law changes with the backlog. According to the IRS, the agency’s workload has been growing even as its workforce has been shrinking for years.
“Aggressive actions” are being taken by IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig as the 2022 tax-filing season begins to clear the backlog of returns from the previous year. The “surge team” and mandatory overtime are included in this.
“We must continue to pursue innovative strategies while supporting the hard work and dedication of our employees to fulfill our commitment to return inventories to a healthy level before entering the 2023 filing season,” Rettig wrote in a letter to lawmakers on Monday. “