Weekly Columns

A Very Taxing Season

Feb 07 2022

This year’s tax season is expected to be difficult. Even the national director of the Taxpayer Advocate Service recently referred to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as an agency “in crisis” with backlogged returns, staff shortages and other historic pandemic-related challenges.

With this in mind, Arkansans need to plan ahead for filing this year. Filing taxes electronically is recommended to speed up the process. While some folks don’t have internet access or a computer at home, local organizations offer help and many public libraries have technology that can allow you to file online. Tax experts say it will be worth the effort if you want your return processed quickly and correctly.

Also be sure to double-check for accuracy before clicking “send.” Making corrections and filing an amended return has become much more difficult and takes an additional five to six months for processing.  

I am very familiar with the frustrations Arkansans have experienced with the IRS over the last two years. Every week I hear from people who are still waiting for the results of returns they filed in 2021 and, astonishingly, even some from 2020. 

Early in the pandemic, IRS processing centers across the country were closed for months leading to historic backlogs, especially for paper returns. In addition, new tasks assigned to the IRS such as distribution of Economic Impact Payments and pandemic safety efforts for their workforce compounded the problem.

The health emergency has certainly exacerbated troubles at the agency, but the reality is it has struggled with its customer service for years. In fact, it’s common practice at the IRS to hang up on callers in what the agency refers to as a “courtesy disconnect” during long wait times when there is no one available to take the call.

The taxpayer must be a priority, but many IRS employees are allowed to spend time on the clock completing tasks unrelated to their official duties, called Taxpayer-Funded Union Time. This policy needs to end. That’s why I support the IRS Customer Service Improvement Act so we can be sure IRS employees are fully devoted to fulfilling their mission to help Americans meet their tax responsibilities, rather than doing representational work, during tax season. 

Arkansans deserve to know the IRS is working in a timely manner to answer their questions and process their tax filings. Passing this legislation is an important step to demonstrating our commitment to all taxpayers. 

I will continue to press the agency and its leadership to address its lackluster customer service with this and other legislation, as well as through Congressional oversight.

For this tax season, here are some tips to help with timely processing of returns: have all of the information needed before filing to avoid an amended return, file electronically with direct deposit, and individuals or families who received advance Child Tax Credits or Economic Impact Payments in 2021 should have those payment amounts handy either from an IRS letter or through IRS.gov.

Receiving your tax return in a reasonable amount of time is not too much to ask. The IRS needs to make the changes necessary to accomplish that basic task, and I intend to keep making that case until it becomes the norm. As always, my staff and I are here to help if you encounter roadblocks with filing your taxes in 2022.