Weeks after the longest government shutdown ended, the Internal Revenue Service reportedly continues to struggle through a backlog of correspondences, audit responses, and amended returns. According to The Wall Street Journal, IRS employees are working through 5 million interactions with taxpayers and “tens of thousands” of necessary audit and return updates after being furloughed during the shutdown. A report released Tuesday also revealed that the IRS accounts-management phone line had a 17 minute wait time—compared to four minutes last year—and other IRS hotlines had even longer wait times. The agency was reportedly still operating during the shutdown, but this caused taxpayers to receive notices with “serious consequences” without the proper information or support from agency personnel.
The report found taxpayers facing economic hardship couldn’t get property seizures reversed or get money back into their accounts during the shutdown because many of the staffers who would have aided them were out of work. “It is unconscionable for the government to allow its employees to enforce collection of taxes without the concomitant taxpayer rights protections enacted by Congress,” Nina Olson, IRS ombudsman, wrote in the report.