IRS Operations During COVID-19: Mission-critical functions continue

Updated May 19, 2020

The Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers and tax professionals to use electronic options to support social distancing and speed the processing of tax returns, refunds and payments.

To protect the public and employees, and in compliance with orders of local health authorities around the country, certain IRS services such as live assistance on telephones, processing paper tax returns and responding to correspondence are extremely limited or suspended until further notice. All Taxpayer Assistance Centers remain temporarily closed as are many volunteer tax preparation sites until further notice. However, as of May 17, the IRS has delivered Economic Impact Payments to 140 million individuals and millions more are on the way every week.

Although the tax filing deadline has been extended to July 15, 2020, from April 15, the IRS continues to process electronic tax returns, issue direct deposit refunds and accept electronic payments.

IRS operational status and alternatives

Paper Tax Returns: All taxpayers should file electronically through their tax preparer, tax software provider or IRS Free File if possible. The IRS is not currently able to process individual paper tax returns. If you already have filed via paper but it has not yet been processed, do not file a second tax return or write to the IRS to inquire about the status of your return or your Economic Impact Payment. Paper returns will be processed   once processing centers are able to reopen. This year, more than 90% of taxpayers have filed electronically.

Ordering Forms: The IRS’s National Distribution Center is closed until further notice. We are not able to take any orders for forms or publications to be mailed during this time. Most forms and publications are available for download electronically at IRS.gov/forms.

Web Options: IRS.gov remains the best source for questions about tax law, checks on refund status,  tax payments and Economic Impact Payments. All IRS updates on the Economic Impact Payments and other Covid-19 related issues continue to  be posted immediately on IRS.gov/coronavirus. Taxpayers can check the status of their Economic Impact Payment at Get My Payment, their refund status at Where’s My Refund? or obtain a tax transcript at Get Transcript Online. Tax transcripts are only available online at this time.

Taxpayers also can make tax payments through Direct Pay. Tax Year 2019 individual income taxes are due July 15. The Interactive Tax Assistant can help answer tax law questions. There currently are no email options that will generate answers to questions posed by taxpayers. Publication 5136, IRS Services Guide (PDF), is a good source of information.

Taxpayers who previously have been issued an Identity Protection PIN but lost it, must use the Get an IP PIN tool to retrieve their numbers. Taxpayers who have an IP PIN need to provide it when they file their return or if they are using the Non-Filer tool to enter their Economic Impact Payment information.  

Telephone Options: Automated phone lines which handle most taxpayer calls - also remain available . Some tax compliance lines also remain available and some IRS phone lines supported by customer service representatives for both taxpayers and tax professionals including the EIP phone line for those who received an EIP letter (Notice 1444) are open with limited staffing at this time, however callers should expect long waits. To check on regular tax refund status via automated phone, call 800-829-1954. (This line has no information on Economic Impact Payments.)

Practitioner Priority Service (PPS): The Practitioner Priority Service line is open with limited service due to continued staffing limitations. The IRS is unable to process Centralized Authorization File (CAF) requests at this time.

IRS.gov remains the first option for answers to questions. Practitioners with e-Services accounts and with client authorization can access the Transcript Delivery System to obtain prior-year transcripts. Taxpayers should use Where’s My Refund? and Get Transcript Online, both common requests. However, the Get Transcript by Mail option should not be used since the offices that print and mail the transcripts are closed.

Taxpayer correspondence: While the IRS is receiving and storing mail, our mail processing functions have been scaled back to comply with social distancing recommendations. This includes the IRS’s ability to correspond with taxpayers about a variety of issues including requests for information needed to process a tax return. Currently, we have reduced responses to paper correspondence. Our primary concern is serving taxpayers as indicated in the People First Initiative, which includes numerous actions to alleviate taxpayer burden during this time.

Taxpayers who mail correspondence to the IRS during this period should expect to wait longer than usual for a response. Once normal operations resume it will take the IRS time to work through any correspondence backlog. Correspondence sent to IRS offices may be returned to the taxpayer if that office is closed and no one is available to accept them.  

U.S. Residency Certification: The Philadelphia Accounts Management Campus is currently closed. Processing of the US Residency Certification Program is temporarily suspended. Normal operations will resume as soon as possible.

Taxpayer Protection Program: If you received correspondence (Letters 5071C, 5447C or 5747C) from the IRS asking if you filed a suspicious tax return, you may use the online Identity Verification Service to validate your identity. If you received a Letter 4883C, follow its instructions. Please note: phone assistance is limited and wait times are lengthy. 

Other IRS operations

Compliance activity. The IRS is continuing to assess the impact of COVID-19 on a range of compliance activity across the agency.

Statute of limitations issues. The IRS will continue working cases where a statute of limitation is pending. In some of these situations, the IRS will work with the taxpayer or their representative to obtain an extension of the statute.

Office of Chief Counsel. The Office of Chief Counsel continues to work to resolve cases in litigation, including those on calendars in various cities through July 3, 2020, that were recently cancelled by the U.S. Tax Court. Notice 2020-23 (PDF), issued on April 9, 2020, postponed the due dates of petitions in the U.S. Tax Court to July 15, 2020. Counsel continues to work on cases in litigation generally and to support and advise the IRS operating divisions on their enforcement and examination activities. Although Counsel is not meeting with taxpayers or their representatives in face-to-face meetings, or taking depositions, taxpayers should know that our attorneys are available to discuss their cases by telephone.

Independent Office of Appeals. At this time, Appeals employees will continue to work their cases. Although Appeals is not currently holding in-person conferences with taxpayers, conferences may be held over the telephone or by videoconference. To the extent they can, taxpayers are encouraged to promptly respond to any outstanding requests for information for all cases in the Independent Office of Appeals.

Taxpayer Advocate Service. Currently, TAS remains open to receive phone calls at the local phone numbers but has suspended walk-in services in their offices and their toll-free centralized number is unavailable until further notice. Please visit taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov to locate your local office phone number.

Tax-exempt Sector Determinations, Rulings and Closing Agreements. The IRS continues to process applications for recognition of tax exemption for exempt organizations and continues to work rulings and determinations for employees plans and closing agreements for municipal issuers. Due to processing center closures, paper applications for tax exemption and paper filed information returns (e.g., Form 990 series) submitted after March 26, 2020 are not being processed and, therefore, are not available for viewing on the Tax Exempt Organization Search tool on IRS.gov. 

Release of a levy due to a coronavirus hardship

Q. Will levies and wage garnishments remain in place or will these be paused from 4/1 to 7/15?  Can the taxpayer request a pause? If so, how?

A. Levies will not be automatically released. IRS will consider taxpayers’ requests to release levies on a case by case basis if the levy is causing an economic hardship. “Economic hardship” means the levy prevents the taxpayer from meeting basic, reasonable living expenses. The IRS may ask for additional financial information to determine if a levy is causing an economic hardship.

To request a release of levy, if the taxpayer is working with a revenue officer, they should contact the revenue officer. For cases not assigned to a revenue officer, taxpayers who require a levy release should call the number on the notice of levy. If you are unable to get through, fax your request to 855-796-4524. Please include your name, address and social security numbers (for both of you and your spouse if you filed jointly) with your request. In addition, include the name, address and fax number of your employer or bank where the levy is being processed. Note that this fax number will only be used to address emergency levy release requests. Due to our current limited staffing, we will not respond to other issues sent to this fax line.

Q.  What should a taxpayer do if they need a lien release, certificate of discharge, or have another lien issue?

A: The IRS is processing all electronically submitted lien certificate applications normally and assigning them within 10 days. To protect the health and safety of IRS employees and taxpayers, the IRS is NOT currently processing lien certificate applications mailed to the Advisory Consolidated Receipts (ACR) site in Florence, Kentucky. The IRS is working to reopen its offices and to restore mail service and will provide updates as the situation changes.

The IRS requests that taxpayers use the E-Fax line for our ACR site (844-201-8382) for certificates such as: discharge of property from the federal tax lien; withdrawal of the notice of federal tax lien; and subordination of the federal tax lien. Publication 4235, Collection Advisory Group Numbers and Addresses (PDF), has additional information on the process for submitting applications for lien certificates, and on related topics. Please visit IRS.gov and search “Lien Certificates” for further information.