IRS chief: Agency is ‘current’ on mail as start of filing season approaches

Washington Post/Pool

IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said Thursday that the agency is “current” on its mail, after having a large backlog for much of last year because of the pandemic.

“We actually are current, believe it or not,” Rettig said at a virtual event hosted by the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. He added that millions of tax returns are still in the middle of being processed, but that the agency has started to handle all the returns it has received.

The IRS directed most of its employees to evacuate their worksites in late March because of the coronavirus pandemic, before starting to bring some employees back to their work stations a few months later.

As a result, the agency accumulated a large backlog of unopened mail, including paper tax returns.

Rettig said that around the end June and beginning of July, the agency had about 23.4 million pieces of unopened mail. The agency still had several million pieces of unopened mail at the start of the fiscal year in the fall, Rettig said.

Now, however, “we’re not too far off of where we would be in the ordinary course,” Rettig said. “The mail is not an issue for us going forward.”

Rettig’s comments come as the IRS prepares to start the tax filing season on Feb. 12, which is a later-than-usual start date.

During the filing season, people who did not receive the full amount of the stimulus payments to which they are entitled can claim a “recovery rebate” tax credit. The IRS is working to ensure that its systems can verify that the rebate credits it provides to taxpayers are accurate.

Rettig said  the filing-season start date was delayed in part to ensure that the reconciliation of stimulus payments doesn’t delay low- and middle-income families receiving refunds that claim the earned income tax credit (EITC). The IRS will deliver refunds claiming the EITC around March 1, which is similar to last year, the commissioner said.

President Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that includes additional stimulus payments of $1,400. When asked what would happen with the filing season if Congress mandates another round of payments during the middle of it, Rettig said that “the IRS stands ready to serve and assist the American people.”

Rettig was appointed by former President Trump, and his term runs until 2022.

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