IRS Statement — Providing meaningful assistance to taxpayers in the current environment

January 27, 2022

The IRS has been working on important relief for taxpayers and tax professionals, implementing additional ways to help avoid confusion and provide important, meaningful relief during this unprecedented pandemic, which has affected us all.

The IRS entered this historic pandemic without the funding that it needs to serve the American people. As part of our ongoing efforts during the pandemic, and within these limited resources, the IRS has aggressively pursued every available option to better serve taxpayers this filing season. This includes, where appropriate and possible, requiring overtime by IRS employees, the redeployment of employees between functions, transfer of inventories among posts of duty, deployment of experienced surge teams – all aimed at returning our processing and correspondence inventories to a healthy level and improving our overall services to taxpayers and tax professionals. The IRS also developed and deployed important technology allowing employees to review and process tax returns filed with errors at many times the rate in the past. We are clearly not where we want to be at present. But our employees have been hard at work to develop innovative processes to expedite inventory reductions during the past year. Despite substantial progress thus far, another challenging filing season is ahead.

As part of this ongoing effort and balancing the importance of protecting the interests of tax administration, the IRS has also been taking important steps to modify our operations and provide additional taxpayer relief. These efforts include suspending issuance of certain automated notices and related actions. We are looking at the suggestions that have come in, and we will continue modify and adjust our efforts going forward to help taxpayers and the tax community.

For example, we have already decided to suspend notices in situations where we have credited taxpayers for payments but have no record of the tax return being filed. In many situations, the tax return may be part of our current paper tax inventory and simply hasn't been processed. Stopping these letters — which could have otherwise been sent to thousands of taxpayers — will help avoid confusion.

It is important to appreciate that many IRS notices are statutorily required to be issued within a certain timeframe to be legally valid. This means they must be sent, absent congressional action. We will continue to explore areas where the IRS can make changes and are in the process of reviewing the full set of notices that we send to determine where we can make adjustments while we continue to work through unprocessed returns and taxpayer correspondence.

Making significant operational changes to our systems, including stopping certain notices from being printed and mailed, may require programming and other operational changes. With an outdated technological ecosystem, these are changes that cannot be made as efficiently as they should be — and that is part of the reason why investing in IRS IT modernization is so important. While we will make every effort to find improvements to help taxpayers, we will have to do so in the constraints of an outdated system, where a seemingly simple modification could run the risk of jeopardizing the overall operating system critical to the current tax season — and the more than 160 million returns we anticipate receiving.

"Since last year, we have been focused on numerous taxpayer-related issues and have pursued innovative ideas and processes not previously deployed by the IRS in an effort to get healthy and provide meaningful taxpayer services," IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said. "Our employees have worked hard, long hours during the pandemic to assist taxpayers and successfully modify our systems, despite lacking the funding that we need to adequately serve the American people. We appreciate the patience and understanding of everyone and the many expressions of appreciation for the efforts of our employees, who have continued to step forward while sharing the same health and safety concerns of others. We are continuing to balance multiple unprecedented demands, including starting the filing season as well as continuing to work on important new tax provisions. The IRS has been operating in an 'all hands on deck' approach, leaving nothing off the table for consideration to improve overall service. We will rapidly adapt to changing circumstances, when appropriate to do so."

The IRS is continuing to assess other changes and system modifications it may be able to implement to assist taxpayers on an array of issues. We will continue to make information available to taxpayers throughout the filing season.