Patience still the name of the game


Just like for everything and everyone else, COVID-19 has thrown MAJOR wrenches in the works at the IRS.

According to this article and others, there are more than 10 million pieces of unopened mail, 5 million of which are tax returns, awaiting IRS employees as they begin returning to work. Balancing serving taxpayers with staff safety, wheels are understandably moving slowly at the IRS as what we're facing with COVID-19 is a situation that hasn't been personally experienced by many, if any, of us. It's a situation whose full impact has yet to be felt despite everyone's best efforts to respond swiftly and safely.

Long story short, just as you're digging deep to find patience with everyone and everything else in your life right now, the IRS needs some as well. We anticipate not only a serious delay in responses to letters sent to the IRS, but also the actual processing of returns.

It's also likely that those pesky computer-generated notices the IRS is famous for will still be being churned out as the computer program has no idea your paper return and check have been sitting around for weeks or months just waiting for IRS staff to return to work. As ever, if you get a notice, let us know. Just remember that a computer generated it, getting a notice (while scary) isn't actually a major crisis, and we'll likely be dealing with this merry-go-round of notices and responses, as well as general delays for months, if not years, to come.

For a more in-depth look at the problem, read the full article from Politico, published online on May 29, below:

The IRS estimates that nearly 5 million unopened paper tax returns had piled up at the agency by mid-May amid the closure of its offices nationwide due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report that POLITICO has obtained.

Overall, the IRS estimated it had a backlog of 10 million pieces of mail to open and process as thousands of workers begin returning to the offices on Monday.

In addition to tax returns, the unopened mail includes taxpayer correspondence, information returns and payments, according to the report.

Through May 22, the agency had processed 120 million returns, down 14 percent from the same point in 2019, when the filing deadline was April 15. The deadline was delayed by three months this year because of disruptions caused by the pandemic.

Nearly 90 percent of the 134 million returns filed so far were sent to the agency electronically, the report said. Filings were down 6.2 percent from 2019, but the average refund — nearly $2,900 — was similar to last year, the report said.

More than 10,000 IRS employees have been told to report to offices in Kentucky, Texas and Utah on Monday. They will focus on mail and return processing, taxpayer refund claims, depositing checks, income verification requests, customer service and telephone assistance, the report said.

Additional employees are expected to be recalled in coming weeks. More than half of the agency’s roughly 81,000 employees have been teleworking.

The report said the IRS “is taking a number of steps to ensure employee safety in our facilities, for example: enforcing social distancing; procuring 1.76 million disposable masks and 188,000 reusable masks; providing hand sanitizer at all facilities and limited quantities of disinfecting wipes (IRS is attempting to procure more); enhanced cleaning; and assessing the ability to modify HVAC operations to provide additional outside air and increase air exchange.”

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MARK K. ASHMAN, CPA, PC      Phone: 970-245-5435      Fax: 970-244-8542

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