Rettig Says IRS Plans To Eliminate Backlog This Year

By Asha Glover

Law360 (May 3, 2022, 6:57 PM EDT) -- The Internal Revenue Service plans to eliminate its paper return and correspondence backlog by the end of the year, agency commissioner Chuck Rettig told a Senate panel Tuesday.

The IRS is using the direct hiring authority Congress passed as a part of the $1.5 trillion bill that will fund the government through September to hire more workers to help address the backlog, Rettig told the Senate Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. The $12.6 billion in IRS funding included in the bill, an increase of $675 million from last year, earmarks $2.8 billion to boost taxpayer services as the agency struggles with a mail backlog and other service issues.

As of April 21, the IRS had 5.8 million paper returns to process, Rettig said.

"We went out on the ground, held job fairs [and] they have been extraordinarily successful," Rettig said. "We have about a 93% offer rate to people who show up at our job fairs on the spot."

The agency is looking to hire 5,000 employees this year and another 5,000 in 2023 to fill entry-level positions in submission processing and accounts management, Rettig said. The IRS is holding virtual job fairs and will be hosting rounds of job fairs at three of its processing centers in Kansas City, Missouri; Austin, Texas; and Ogden, Utah, he added. The agency has already held a first round of job fairs at the centers.

The ability to directly hire has allowed the agency to make offers on the spot, Rettig said, adding that the power is especially necessary when the $15-an-hour starting wage for federal jobs is lower than what other companies are offering in those communities.

Lawmakers during the hearing voiced concerns that the amount of hiring the IRS is doing would impede the agency's ability to eliminate the backlog by the end of the year. Ranking member Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., said that in some cases, it could take up to 37 weeks to properly train incoming employees.

However, Rettig said the employees the agency is currently hiring are expected to be onboarded and trained sometime in June. Many of the employees hired are already employees who are just being refreshed, he said, adding that the onboarding process for new employees is considered in his plan to eliminate the backlog by the end of 2022. Some new hires will only need a few days to train, he said.

"Remember, we have people who open envelopes, we have people who monitor electronic accounts — it's a broad range of talent that we're looking at," Rettig said. "When I tell you the end of the year, it's on the assumption that these people are in, onboard and trained" by June.

The IRS did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

--Additional reporting by Joshua Rosenberg, Theresa Schliep and Stephen Cooper. Editing by Neil Cohen.