IRS Struggles to Hire Customer Service Reps as People Choose Unemployment Over Working for IRS

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With tax season well underway, the IRS‘ phone lines are already swamped.

Frustrated taxpayers are calling with questions about last year’s tax returns, tax refund, stimulus checks and tax credits, among other issues, but are having trouble getting through: National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins, the agency’s in-house watchdog, estimated recently that only about one out of 11 calls to the IRS was being answered.

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One reason for the delays? The IRS is struggling to hire workers to man its phone lines.

The agency planned to hire 5,000 customer service representatives to man its phone lines but encountered “significant hiring challenges during the pandemic,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said Tuesday while testifying before the Senate Finance Committee.

Despite stubbornly high unemployment – the jobless rate fell to 6% in March, but there are still 8.4 million fewer jobs than before the crisis began – the IRS faced difficulties in onboarding new employees, including low applicant pools in some locations, delays in fingerprinting due to closed facilities and delays in processing applicants virtually.

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