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Top Democrats urge IRS to resolve stimulus payment issues

Top Democrats urge IRS to resolve stimulus payment issues
© Greg Nash

The top Democrats on Congress's tax committees are urging the Treasury Department and IRS to resolve issues with the direct payments to Americans that Congress authorized in March as lawmakers look to enact a second round of payments as part of a new relief package.

"With a second round of payments imminent, it is critical that the Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) promptly ensure all remaining [economic impact payments] have been issued to eligible Americans," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealHoyer releases 2021 House calendar A need for reauthorization of the Elder Justice Act Biden names Janet Yellen as his Treasury nominee MORE (D-Mass.) and Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Government used Patriot Act to gather website visitor logs in 2019 | Defense bill leaves out Section 230 repeal, includes White House cyber czar position | Officials warn hackers are targeting vaccine supply chain Government used Patriot Act to gather website visitor logs in 2019 Despite veto threat, Congress presses ahead on defense bill MORE (D-Ore.) wrote in a letter sent Monday.

In March, Congress passed legislation that provided for payments to most Americans of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child. Treasury announced on June 3 that it had issued about 159 million payments and that payments had gone out to all eligible Americans for whom the IRS had the necessary information. 

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But millions of Americans are still awaiting their payments. According to a June document from Ways and Means Committee Democrats, as many as 30 million to 35 million payments had yet to be issued.

Neal and Wyden said that between June 3 and July 22, the IRS had made fewer than 1.5 million additional payments, a pace the lawmakers called "unacceptable." They also noted that some of the people who had received payments did not receive the full amounts to which they were entitled.

"As the pandemic continues to ravage the nation, Americans cannot wait any longer for the emergency assistance they were told would arrive in the spring," the lawmakers wrote. They urged Treasury to take "immediate and decisive action to pay all eligible Americans."

Neal and Wyden also urged the IRS to make improvements to its telephone line focused on the direct payments and to quickly process a backlog of inquiries in a mailbox dedicated to constituent claims received by congressional offices.

IRS officials had reported that as of July 10, only 5 percent of callers to the phone line were able to speak to IRS staff with access to taxpayer-specific data, according to the letter. The lawmakers also said there were more than 13,000 unread emails in the mailbox for congressional offices as of July 17.

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The lawmakers' letter comes as both Republicans and Democrats have called for a second round of direct payments to be included in the next coronavirus relief package. Neal and Wyden expressed concerns that some people may not get a second payment because they have unresolved issues relating to the first round.

Neal and Wyden urged Treasury and the IRS to provide them with a report by July 31 "describing how Treasury and the IRS will ensure all remaining EIPs are paid in full within the next two weeks." 

A bipartisan group of more than 100 House members similarly sent a letter to the IRS earlier this month in an effort to get the agency to quickly resolve constituents' issues with obtaining their payments.