IRS Head Says Agency Is Having ’15 Minutes Of Fame ‘- Here’s How He Hopes To Get The Most Out Of It


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“I think we are living in our 15 minutes of fame. And I think we are living, for us, in a bipartisan environment. ”- Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service Charles Rettig

That’s Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig on Wednesday night, giving his assessment of the tax collection agency he has run since 2018, which became a critical conduit for obtaining cash for millions of people during the pandemic. After Congress passed two rounds of stimulus checks, first in March and then in December, the IRS was the agency that sent the money to Americans.

Between the first and second batch of stimulus checks, the IRS released approximately 307 million direct payments totaling $ 412 billion. Now, lawmakers are chewing on President Joe Biden‘s $ 1.9 billion bailout package proposing a third round of checks for $ 1,400. If the proposal quickly becomes law, the IRS would have to distribute the checks while it processes the 2020 income tax returns. (The IRS can do both, Rettig has previously said.) Regardless, lawmakers have credited the IRS with changes to the stimulus checks, but they have also complained about issues such as delayed processing of 2019 income tax returns after the IRS. temporarily shut down operations during the spring. As of late January, the agency was still processing 6.7 million 2019 returns according to an IRS official who said the agency needs more information from the people filing the returns in question. Speaking to tax attorneys at the New York City Bar Association, Rettig, a tax attorney prior to his appointment, said he hopes the IRS ‘potential moment in the sun will translate into cash. As in more budget money. “I think you will see funding for the IRS. You’re going to see dramatic increases in IRS staffing over the next three years, ”he said. During the late December flurry of activity on the bailout package and $ 900 billion budget, the IRS ended up with a 3% increase in funding coming from a budget of $ 11.51 billion in fiscal 2020. According to some, the extra money would be long overdue. Since fiscal year 2010, the IRS budget fell about 20% in 10 years when adjusted for inflation, according to a report by National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins, a watchdog within the IRS. Staffing levels have also fallen nearly 20% in the same time as the number of tax returns increased 13%, he added. “The IRS deserves a lot of credit for its overall performance in 2020,” Collins wrote, but, he added, the agency cannot do much. During fiscal year 2020, the IRS received 100.5 million phone calls and 24% of staff responded with an average wait of 18 minutes, it said. “In other words, IRS employees did not respond to more than 75 million phone calls from taxpayers seeking help in meeting their tax obligations,” Collins wrote, noting that the IRS routed 23 million calls to automated responses and 39 million of people hung up. So is the IRS having a moment? Perhaps, but the big picture is still unclear, said Howard Gleckman, senior fellow at the Center for Fiscal Policy. Part of the lighthearted disposition goes with the territory of leading a massive tax-collecting operation. “This is an agency that everyone loves to hate. You have to see the positive side of everything and Mr. Rettig is a very optimistic guy, “he said. Still, Gleckman added, “I think the IRS deservedly earned a lot of praise for distributing [economic impact payments] twice. … I think there will be bipartisan support for the additional funding. I’m not sure how much more. ”Congress specifies how budget money is used, so Gleckman said it’s an open question what the bottom line of the additional funding would be and what that means for taxpayers. Room for improvement at the IRS on big issues like low and declining audit rates and customer service, Gleckman said. When it comes to customer service, Gleckman said, “It’s been bad for years and it’s gotten a lot worse. It just doesn’t. You can’t communicate with the IRS in any way. ”He said Wednesday night, Rettig said he has his eyes on taxpayer experience with issues like broader language access and customer service. There are 15,000 representatives from IRS customer service, Rettig said. Those places are now fully eligible for telecommuting, he said. Three percent of those places were eligible for telecommuting at the start of the pandemic, He said.