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IRS commissioner says agency is working through 5.2M pieces of unopened mail

IRS commissioner says agency is working through 5.2M pieces of unopened mail
IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said Wednesday that the agency is working to clear through a backlog of 5.3 million pieces of unopened mail to deliver stimulus payments and process income tax returns. Pool Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 7 (UPI) -- The Internal Revenue Service is attempting to dig through a backlog of millions of pieces of mail in an effort to deliver outstanding stimulus payments and process hard copy income tax returns, Commissioner Charles Rettig said Wednesday.

Rettig testified before the House subcommittee on government operations that the IRS is sorting through a backlog of 5.3 million pieces of unopened mail, including 2.5 million tax returns that accumulated as the agency was shut down in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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He added that the backlog has decreased from 23 million pieces of unopened mail throughout a period in March and April, before falling to 12.3 million pieces as of late June.

"I can certainly tell you our people are working really hard," Rettig said, noting that the IRS also receives 300,000 to 500,000 new pieces of mail each week.

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He anticipated the backlog could be cleared within a month or two.

Wednesday's hearing comes as the IRS attempts to deliver economic stimulus payments provided in response to the pandemic to about 8 million people who do not typically file tax returns.

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A federal judge in California also ruled that the IRS must provide inmates with stimulus payments after the agency initially said they were ineligible.

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During the hearing, Rettig appealed to Congress to provide the IRS with sustained funding to counteract a history of budget cuts that have hampered the agency's ability to quickly respond to taxpayers.

Subcommittee Chairman Gerry Connolly, D-Va., agreed the agency is in need of more funding, blaming its woes on aging computer systems and a shrinking workforce.

"The IRS sought to find ways to keep its workforce safe while trying to meet its expanded mission but it didn't stand a chance," Connolly said. "When the American people are relying on the IRS most, the agency is gasping for air."

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Rep. Jody Hice of Georgia, the top Republican on the subcommittee, questioned why previous efforts to modernize the agency had not produced better results, demanding assurances that funding from Congress would improve its technology.

"I thank you for your effort," Hice told Rettig. "But effort doesn't resolve the issue for people who are waiting."

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