A message from the Commissioner - Taking steps to increase operations

 

May 19, 2020

As we finish the second month of our evacuation order, state and local governments with health advisories continue to evolve and are beginning to lift restrictions in some areas. With employee and taxpayer safety as our primary focus, the IRS continues to carefully monitor and evaluate our readiness to open our facilities for expanded operations of nonportable work, considering specific federal and local guidelines.

We are also aware of the growing taxpayer needs and an expanding backlog of work at our campus and office locations. We will continue to balance these urgent tax administration needs while doing everything possible to protect you and your colleagues.

In recent weeks, we greatly appreciate the volunteers who started returning in some of our operations to help with critical issues. Starting June 1, we anticipate bringing more people back into our campuses and offices to do work that cannot be performed remotely. The first phase will include employees with nonportable work in Kentucky, Texas and Utah.

As we begin this next phase, please remember you need to remain in your current work situation, whether teleworking or on weather and safety leave, until you hear otherwise from your manager. For those who can perform their duties at home, our mandatory telework policy remains in effect for the foreseeable future so we can maximize social distancing for those with nonportable work who need to be in the workplace.

Over the next several weeks, we will continue to ask employees whose work is not portable to return to their posts of duty. Our business unit leaders are evaluating their needs and will make decisions about how many employees are needed in each location to clear out the backlog of work and safely resume operations. Managers will continue contacting employees individually to discuss their business unit's process for returning to work when facilities are ready. We also remain in close contact with NTEU during this process.

Here are some of the basic guidelines we're following for our offices and campuses:

  • As states reopen, we will assess states in accordance with OMB guidance to assist with building decisions.
  • If a state or local municipality is open, managers will recall employees whose work cannot be done remotely to return to the POD. We will continue to ask those with portable work to continue teleworking to ensure safety through social distancing.
  • If a state or local municipality is closed, business units will assess the need for volunteers to return to the office to perform mission-critical, non-portable work. In some situations, depending on the response from volunteers, we may need to recall employees to support the mission.

To ensure the safety of everyone, here are some other important steps:

  • Employees who are ill should not report for duty and may be required to provide medical documentation if sick leave exceeds three consecutive workdays.
  • Employees in high-risk populations, as defined by the CDC, may request weather and safety leave if they cannot telework.
  • We will assess each POD after every shift to ensure appropriate cleaning, supplies and social distancing guidelines continue to be met. Employees are reminded to keep workstations clear to assist with cleaning.

Health concerns and the safety of our employees remain a top priority as the reopening process continues. Facilities staff have been working around the clock to ensure the appropriate precautions are taken for the well-being of our employees. They've coordinated the cleaning of facilities, provided face coverings and hand sanitizer, and realigned workspace to allow for proper social distancing. We will share more details on specific actions as we finalize our plans, but rest assured we will meet and where possible exceed the CDC's safety guidelines.

I continue to be impressed with the way this agency has responded at one of the most important and challenging times in our country's history. From delivering Economic Impact Payments to keeping our tax system running, your work has been amazing. On behalf of the entire IRS leadership team, I thank you – and your families – for everything you've done and continue to do to support our vital functions. You are making a difference on behalf of many others. Thank you!

Chuck