The Internal Revenue Service has failed to process millions of tax refunds in a timely manner due to staff shortages as it continues to struggle to hire desperately needed staff, according to the agency’s chief inspector.

As of mid-March, the IRS had hired only 9.5 percent of the nearly 5,500 filing staff it hoped to hire for the filing season, according to the chief tax inspector for tax administration. report released on Thursday. The agency still does not have about 5,000 employees in this position alone. It has been more successful in hiring account managers – workers who deal with taxpayers’ interactions, including by answering calls – filling 77% of their vacancies. However, IG said the IRS does not have nearly 1,200 employees from where it wants to be.

More than one in four taxpayer support centers, where people can schedule face-to-face meetings, have been closed due to staff shortages, IG said. About half of the centers have only one or two employees and depend on the availability of these workers.

Due to the omissions, “millions of tax returns are not processed on time, refunds are not issued on time and taxpayers do not receive timely assistance on the problems of their tax accounts,” IG said.

The Agency appears to have made some progress since the Authority completed its report. The IRS said in March that it hoped to add 5,000 staff a year over the next two years to deal with the build-up, and Commissioner Charles Retig recently told lawmakers that it was already halfway to its 2022 target. “Saved” the agency from “death” when it granted direct hiring powers in March, Retig said.

Despite this success, IG recommended that the IRS develop a new approach to dealing with staffing issues.

“The continuing and continuing shortage of staff needed to fill critical positions in the processing of submitted documents ensures the continuous development of new initiatives and strategies for hiring and retaining,” the supervisor said. “The approaches so far have not solved the significant shortage of hiring and staff.”

The IRS, meanwhile, has taken other steps to reduce its unprecedented pending cases. It has imposed overtime for 6,000 employees and allowed voluntary overtime for an additional 10,000 workers, deployed rapid work teams and hired contractors. The IRS started the filing season with 8 million outstanding declarations, and although it has made some progress, there are still about 6 million outstanding declarations.

IG is separately investigating how the IRS is dealing with its backlogs as well as staff shortages. Retig said the IRS has been very successful in recent job fairs after receiving direct hiring powers. At these events, he said, the agency hired 90% of those who show up.

Congress has provided the IRS with a $ 675 million funding increase as part of the omnibus account for fiscal 2022, the largest increase since 2001. President Biden has called for a further 18% increase for fiscal 2023 and has called for $ 80 billion in 10-year growth as part of his larger package of social and climate spending. Republicans have rejected the need for more spending on the IRS, saying the agency needs to learn to be more efficient.

Retig said the IRS still faces a $ 100 million shortfall in operational support over the current fiscal year, warning that the agency would have to make cuts elsewhere in its budget if the situation is not addressed.

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