WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, questioned Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Daniel Werfel about an acceptable timeline for the agency to process amended returns as it currently takes approximately 20 weeks to process both paper and electronic amended returns.
“Over the last year, I have led over 8 letters to the IRS about a range of customer service issues impacting taxpayers. Just as the IRS expects taxpayers to file on time, taxpayers and tax professionals should be able to count on the IRS to answer the phone, respond to questions, and process refunds in a timely manner,” Menendez said. “And thanks to the resources provided by the Inflation Reduction Act, the IRS has hired 5,000 new customer service workers to help meet taxpayers’ needs. It’s now consistently answering the phones, as I understand it, between 80 and 90% of the time, at an average speed of 4 minutes, compared to last year where the average level of phone service was 17% with a speed of answer rate of 27 minutes. So that’s good – but there’s still more work to be done.”
Sen. Menendez has long called for better customer service practices at the IRS, and in response the IRS has implemented several customer service changes which have significantly improved taxpayers’ experiences. However, the Senator highlighted the need for improvement in the servicing of amended returns, where the IRS is averaging 20 weeks to process these filings.
The Senator also questioned the Commissioner about disproportionate audit rates of Black Americans following a joint report from Stanford University and the Department of Treasury which found that Black taxpayers are at least three times as likely to be audited by the IRS.
“The IRS doesn’t collect data on race or ethnicity, and the report suggests that the disparity is attributed to discrimination in the IRS’s computer algorithms that select returns for audit,” Menendez said. “The report also found that the IRS disproportionately audits people who claim the Earned Income Tax Credit.”
Sen. Menendez inquired about when to expect the IRS’s use of Login.gov for verification services to begin after some news reports indicated that Login.gov would be used this tax filing season. Sens. Menendez, Booker, Padilla, and Cortez Masto wrote a letter on February 15, 2022 addressing concerns about any continued involvement between the IRS and ID.me, an online identity network that taxpayers can use to access government services. The senators were concerned by the disproportionate harm such facial recognition technology can have on minority and low-income communities.
Sen. Menendez has been a leading voice in ensuring the IRS addresses persistent customer service issues and the extensive processing backlogs plaguing the agency.
Last August, the Senator led more than 90 Senate and House colleagues urging then-IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig to eliminate the ongoing, unprecedented processing delays, extend the suspension of automated notices and collections, and continue making maximum use of overtime and surge teams. Last summer, the Senator led a group of colleagues in calling on the agency to extend the filing deadlines for filers with individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITIN) impacted by colossal processing delays at the agency and were, as a result, unable to file for the Enhanced Child Tax Credit (CTC).
The Senator also led another bicameral effort with 45 colleagues last February that ultimately resulted in the IRS announcing the formation of a second surge team to help address the massive backlogs and continue to improve customer service. In late January 2022, Sens. Menendez led more than 200 colleagues in a bipartisan and bicameral letter calling on the IRS to provide penalty relief for taxpayers – spurring the agency to temporarily halt a number of the penalty notifications while the agency worked to address its persistent processing and customer service issues.