IRS efforts to help taxpayers and the nation in 2020

Notice: Historical Content

This is an archival or historical document and may not reflect current law, policies or procedures.
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Whether on the job or out in their communities, IRS employees care, and they take pride in serving taxpayers and our country. Our annual report, IRS Progress Update, Fiscal Year 2020: Putting Taxpayers First, highlights IRS service to the nation during FY 2020.

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By Chuck Rettig
CL-21-01, January 5, 2021

While the IRS is well-known as the nation’s tax collector, what’s less well known is how much we help taxpayers. In everything we do as an agency, we strive to put taxpayers first, and our employees make a difference. Here are just a few recent examples:

  • As COVID-19 began spreading across the U.S. in the spring of 2020, IRS employees around the country got busy. They did everything from making homemade face masks for family members, friends and even local law enforcement, to delivering “care packages” to seniors in nursing homes to show they weren’t forgotten.
  • Employees at the IRS’s campus in Memphis, Tennessee, donated a record-breaking 51,800 pounds of food to the Mid-South Food Bank as part of this year’s Feds Feed Families Campaign. Operating through the Salvation Army “Adopted Angels” and “Forgotten Angels” programs, the Memphis campus also donated Christmas gifts for 482 children and seniors! Go Memphis!
  • A special agent in the IRS’s Criminal Investigation (CI) Division was honored for his work as part of a team of federal agents who exposed a global child pornography enterprise on the dark web. The team’s work directly resulted in the rescue of more than two dozen abused and exploited children in the U.S. and abroad. The same CI-Cyber team led the investigation into the takedown of terrorism financing sites this year belonging to al-Qassam Brigades (Hamas's military wing), al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).
  • A group of employees from the IRS’s Information Technology (IT) Division received the Gears of Government President’s Award for their work helping to implement major tax law changes in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. They made extensive IT programming and systems updates incorporating those changes, so taxpayers were able to file their tax returns easily and on time during the filing season.

As you can see, whether on the job or out in their communities, IRS employees care, and they take pride in serving taxpayers and our country. But you don’t have to take my word for it. You can find a wealth of information about how the IRS helps taxpayers in the pages of our annual report, IRS Progress Update, Fiscal Year 2020: Putting Taxpayers FirstPDF. Like an annual report from a corporation, the IRS Progress Update looks back over the past year, highlighting challenges and successes. The agency accomplishments described in these pages show how we provided service to the nation during FY 2020.

In publishing this report, we want to give everyone an insight into how the IRS functions as an institution and the ways in which our workforce helps our nation. Each year, the IRS collects more than $3 trillion in taxes and generates approximately 96 percent of the funding that supports the Federal Government’s operations. We help fund critical aspects of the U.S., ranging from schools and roads to Social Security payments and the nation’s military. We serve and interact with more Americans than any other public or private organization.

As we often state, there are more visible and less visible projects but as “ONE IRS,” every IRS employee is key to our overall success in every project. The IRS’s response to COVID-19 is one of the major stories in this year’s IRS Progress Update. COVID-19 presented some of the greatest challenges to our country and the IRS in its history, both in terms of being able to carry out our mission and in protecting the health and safety of taxpayers and our own workforce. IRS employees worked long hours in the spring to quickly provide financial assistance to millions of Americans, including the delivery of Economic Impact Payments to help people facing financial hardship. I’m extremely proud of how IRS employees worked around the clock to deliver more than 160 million payments totaling more than $270 billion beginning within two weeks of the enactment of the CARES Act. And then, in the final days of 2020, they worked through the holidays to deliver the second round of payments only two days after the enactment of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 – and at the same time preparing for the 2021 filing season.

While helping the nation cope with the financial effects of COVID-19, the IRS remained committed to its core mission. I’m proud that our employees successfully extended and delivered the longest filing season on record for the nation, as our report explains: While events unfolded in the spring of 2020, we continued to process electronic tax returns, issue direct deposit refunds and accept electronic payments. A record number of IRS employees teleworked, thanks to the continued support of our Information Technology division. And we were able to continue bringing on new employees through the use of a highly successful Virtual Onboarding Process.

The ways the IRS has responded to the challenges we faced this past year serve to highlight the significant role our agency plays in the overall health of our country – in 2020 and beyond.

Along with delivering the filing season, the IRS Progress Update outlines the many activities and initiatives we have undertaken in the areas of service to taxpayers, enforcing the tax laws and modernizing our systems.

My message to IRS employees has been that all the people the IRS serves are important, none more or less so than any others, and the value of taxpayer services must be measured through the eyes of the taxpayer.  As an organization, we are highly focused on enhancing the experience of all taxpayers, including those who are unrepresented, lower-income or who have limited English proficiency. We must pursue our ability to accelerate relevant clear guidance, forms and instructions in plain language – and in non-English languages – to assist and appropriately respect the needs of diverse communities in our country.

We held two National Multilingual Stakeholder Summits, which included representatives from several Indian Tribal Governments as well as other historically underserved communities around the country. To better serve these communities, we took a number of aggressive steps in 2020 to significantly expand information and assistance available to taxpayers in additional languages, and you’ll see these changes starting with the 2021 tax filing season. Examples include: 

  • Providing the Form 1040 in Spanish for the first time.
  • Providing a Spanish translation of Circular 230, the set of rules governing tax professionals who practice before the IRS.
  • Making Publication 1, Your Rights as a Taxpayer, available in 20 languages.
  • Giving taxpayers who call us access to over-the-phone interpreter services in more than 350 languages.

I’m incredibly proud of the IRS for moving forward on these and other initiatives. Following our public announcement of these language initiatives, I received an email that, when translated into English, stated “Bravo IRS to serve the multi-ethnic people in the U.S.A.”  We appreciate everyone’s help in supporting these efforts! We now have momentum, we want to do more, and we will continue our push forward assisting the underserved communities in our country.

In addition to improving service to all taxpayers, the IRS is also committed to having a strong, visible, robust tax enforcement presence. We have coordinated our enforcement efforts with all enforcement functions now working together. We have shifted significant audit resources and technology to continue increasing our focus on high-income taxpayers, including those who have failed to file returns and those engaged in certain types of abusive transactions. We have expanded use of data, analytics and artificial intelligence. We are able now to identify issues of noncompliance that would not have been remotely possible just a few years ago. For our country, knowing where to focus enforcement efforts is as important as knowing where to not focus such efforts to avoid unnecessarily burdening compliant taxpayers.

Along with our day-to-day efforts to help taxpayers and enforce the tax laws, the IRS is also committed to delivering on the promise of a new IRS.  We are developing an innovative approach to the future of tax administration that will better serve everyone, including those in underserved communities.

A critical piece of this involves the work the IRS is doing to implement the Taxpayer First Act (TFA), which gives the IRS an incredible opportunity to make significant improvements in the way we serve taxpayers. The initial steps we have taken in 2020 to implement the TFA are just the beginning of our work in this area, which will lead to significant improvements across the IRS in the years to come – improvements that will benefit taxpayers, tax administration and the entire nation.

Although we certainly do not seek out challenges beyond our mission, it is a tribute to our employees that the IRS successfully rises to every challenge, even during an unprecedented pandemic. The ways the IRS has responded to the challenges we faced this past year serve to highlight the significant role our agency plays in the overall health of our country – in 2020 and beyond.

As I look back over the past year, I’m still extremely proud to be able to say, “I’m Chuck Rettig and I work with the Internal Revenue Service.” The entire IRS workforce wants to do more in every area, and we will! A special holiday thank you to our dedicated workforce for their hard work this year and to everyone for filing their taxes.  I wish a Happy and Healthy New Year to you all!

Chuck Rettig
IRS Commissioner

Commissioner Rettig

About the Author

Chuck Rettig is the 49th Commissioner of the IRS. As Commissioner, Rettig presides over the nation’s tax system, which collects more than $3.5 trillion in tax revenue each year. This revenue funds most government operations and public services. He manages an agency of about 80,000 employees and a budget of approximately $11 billion.

In leading the IRS, Rettig is focused on improving service to the nation’s taxpayers, balancing appropriate enforcement of the nation’s tax laws while respecting taxpayer rights.



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