TIGTA Issued a report entitled Results of the 2020 Filing Season and Effects ofCOVID-19 on Tax Processing Operations which found that unprocessed individual returns, as well as the additional returns and correspondence in the Error Resolution, Rejects, and Unpostables functions and the Accounts Management inventory, include returns, etc. for taxpayers who still have not received their tax year 2019 tax refunds.
As of December 25, 2020, the IRS had more than 11.7 million paper-filed individual and business returns that still needed to be processed. The backlog of returns, correspondence, and other types of work resulting from the pandemic has and will continue to have a significant impact on the associated taxpayers. For example, the unprocessed individual returns, as well as the additional returns and correspondence in the Error Resolution, Rejects, Unpostables functions and the Accounts Management inventory, include taxpayers who have yet to receive their Tax Year 2019 tax refunds.
The IRS’s ability to resolve these backlogs could be affected by the need to divert resources to issue additional Economic Impact Payments or an unforeseen closure of IRS Tax Processing Centers due to the pandemic. The ability of these taxpayers to contact the IRS to receive updated information about the status of their refunds is a further challenge as staffing issues continue to hinder the IRS’s ability to provide adequate customer service.
Much of The Work Performed at The IRS’s Tax Processing Centers is Not Conducive To a Telework Environment.
This work includes the receiving, sorting, and distributing of mail and the processing of paper tax returns, which requires manually inputting information from the tax return into IRS systems, correcting errors, and corresponding with the taxpayer, if needed.
As of November 14, 2020, the IRS had more than 2.9 million pieces of unopened mail and 4.7 million individual paper tax returns to process. In addition, the IRS had more than 600,000 returns in its Error Resolution inventory, nearly 3.7 million cases in its Accounts Management inventory, and more than 1.3 million returns in its fraud program inventories as of this same period.
When the IRS closed its offices nationwide, it stopped answering 81 of its 87 toll-free taxpayer assistance telephone lines and closed all 358 Taxpayer Assistance Centers. In addition, 10,792 of the 11,014 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance/Tax Counseling for the Elderly partner sites remained closed as of May 24, 2020. The IRS had reopened 80 of its toll-free telephone lines as of November 5, 2020, and 263 of its Taxpayer Assistance Centers as of November 16, 2020.