The agency released a plan to work down the tens of millions of filings that includes speeding up the traditionally slow hiring process, relying more on automated processes and bringing on more contract workers to help with mailroom and paper processing.
Getting it done will be the big challenge, tax experts say.
The agency faces a backlog of around 20 million pieces of correspondence, which is more than 15 times as large as in a normal filing season, according to the agency. And the IRS workforce is the same size it was in 1970, though the U.S. population has grown exponentially and the U.S. tax code has become increasingly complicated.
Additionally, the need to administer pandemic-related programs has imposed an entirely new workload on the agency.
White House officials have said the agency is not equipped to serve taxpayers even in non-pandemic years. A senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity Thursday to preview the new IRS plan, said processing returns will continue to be a massive challenge so long as the agency operates on 1960s infrastructure.
The IRS’ latest plan to combat the current backlog includes creating a 700-person surge team to process new returns, adding 2,000 contractors to respond to taxpayer questions about stimulus and child tax credit payments and developing new automated voice and chat bots to answer taxpayer questions.
The plan also calls for several upcoming hiring fairs in Austin, Texas; Kansas City, Missouri; and Ogden, Utah, where the IRS will be able to use “direct-hire authority” to allow new hires to begin work within 30 to 45 days of their job offer.
There is no plan to extend the current April 18 filing deadline, the senior official said.