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TaxWatch: ‘Help is on the way’: Need to speak to someone at the IRS about your taxes? It’s about to get a lot easier, IRS commissioner says

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The Internal Revenue Service has hired 4,000 people to help pick up the phone, speak with puzzled taxpayers and assist with other customer-service issues during the upcoming tax season, the agency said Thursday.

It’s months before millions of Americans will submit their 2022 income taxes, but the IRS says the hiring now will hopefully make it a smoother ride compared to recent years when people tried to get through to a person at the tax agency.

“Our phone lines have been simply overwhelmed during the pandemic, and we have been unable to provide the help that IRS employees want to give and that the nation’s taxpayers deserve. But help is on the way for taxpayers,” IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said in a statement Thursday.

“As the newly hired employees are trained and move online in 2023, we will have more assistors on the phone than any time in recent history” he said.

Here’s a sense of the recent odds to get a person on the line. By early March 2022, people tried to call the IRS almost 36 million times, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), a watchdog agency focused on the IRS. IRS employees answered 2.7 million of those calls and 7.4 million calls were routed to automated responses, the TIGTA report said.

The hiring announcement comes after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told IRS employees that the agency would be staffing up its phone lines by adding 5,000 more customer-service representatives for the 2023 tax season. On Thursday, the IRS reiterated that the goal is to hire another 1,000 people to get to 5,000 by the end of the year.

Thanks to a recently-enacted climate, tax and healthcare package, the IRS has $80 billion in supplemental funding coming over a decade. Now it has to devise the specifics on its spending plan to upgrade staff and operations.

It also still has to work through a backlog of unprocessed individual returns. As of mid-October, the backlog stood at 5.1 million.

The Inflation Reduction Act passed without one Republican vote. As midterm elections approach and polls suggest that Republicans could take control in the House of Representatives and the Senate, the IRS could be under new scrutiny.

Earlier this month, Senate Republicans asked TIGTA to offer guidance “on its plans to help provide all of the American people eyes into what will transpire with the massive new IRS funding.”

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