We are currently drafting our report that outlines the results of our assessment of the 2019 Filing Season (we plan to issue our Final Report in November 2019). As we reported in our Interim Filing Season report,9 along with the extensive tax law changes, this filing season was also impacted by the partial shutdown of the Federal Government from December 22, 2018, through January 25, 2019. During this timeframe, taxpayers were unable to obtain customer service assistance, a backlog of paper tax returns and taxpayer correspondence developed, and hiring of Submission Processing employees was delayed. For example:

• The IRS reported canceling more than 16,500 scheduled appointments at Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TAC). As of May 3, 2019,10 the IRS assisted 1.4 million individuals, which is an 18 percent decrease from the prior year. Although the IRS reports having 358 TACs for the 2019 Filing Season, 33 TACs were not open because they had not been staffed as of April 15, 2019. In addition, in May 2019, we reported that the IRS is not using its data-driven model to identify optimal locations for Virtual Service Delivery11 sites and/or sites co-located with the Social Security Administration.12 The model can segment taxpayer populations by characteristics such as income, limited-English proficiency, and disabilities, which, if used, can assist in identifying locations to expand face-to-face assistance.

• The IRS was not able to answer approximately 3.8 million calls from taxpayers between December 22, 2018, and January 21, 2019, because the phone lines were not staffed to assist callers. As of May 3, 2019, the IRS reports a Level of Service (LOS)13 of 67 percent, which is down from 80 percent in the prior year. However, in 
8 Pub. L. No. 116-25.
9 TIGTA, Ref. No. 2019-44-030, Interim Results of the 2019 Filing Season (Apr. 2019).
10 Fiscal Year October 1, 2018, through May 3, 2019.
11 Virtual Service Delivery integrates video and audio technology to allow taxpayers to see and hear an IRS assistor located at a remote TAC, giving taxpayers “virtual face-to-face interactions” with assistors. 12 TIGTA, Ref. No. 2019-40-029,

The Internal Revenue Service Did Not Follow Congressional Directives Before Closing Taxpayer Assistance Centers; a Data-Driven Model Should Be Used to Optimize Locations (May 2019).
13 The primary measure of service to taxpayers. It is the relative success rate of taxpayers who call for live assistance on the IRS’s toll-free telephone lines.

June 2019, we reported that IRS’s telephone performance measures do not reflect overall call demand or performance for IRS telephone assistance.14 The LOS does not account for the total number of taxpayer calls to all IRS telephone lines. For example, in FY 2018 the IRS had 110 toll-free telephone lines but calculated the LOS using only 30 (27 percent) of these lines.15 The IRS agreed with TIGTA’s recommendation and plans to evaluate the performance measures using a Level of Access16 measurement to supplement its traditional LOS measure. As of
May 3, 2019, the Level of Access is 59.5 percent, which is well below the reported LOS.

• Delays occurred in the hiring of personnel to transcribe paper tax returns and resolve errors on tax returns. As of June 13, 2019, the IRS was able to hire only 4,099 (50 percent) of the 8,208 employees it planned to hire for the 2019 Filing Season. To compensate for the hiring shortfall, the IRS used various mitigation strategies.

These strategies included transferring tax returns to other processing centers, rotating employees from other departments, and allowing overtime for employees. As of May 13, 2019, the IRS had transferred 409,038 Forms 1040 between processing centers on four separate occasions in an effort to timely process paper-filed tax returns.

• A backlog of taxpayer correspondence occurred. The IRS reported receiving more than 5 million pieces of taxpayer correspondence during the shutdown. As of
May 4, 2019, the IRS reported that the correspondence inventory decreased to
2.3 million cases.

However, the over-aged inventory increased by 23 percent to more than 905,000 cases. 
Despite the partial government shutdown, the IRS began accepting and processing individual tax returns on January 28, 2019, as planned, which was three days after the government reopened. As of May 3, 2019, the IRS received
more than 141 million individual income tax returns. Refunds totaling more than $274.3 billion were issued to more than 100 million taxpayers with an average refund amount of $2,732.

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Mr. Michael D. Sullivan

Michael D. Sullivan is the founder of MD Sullivan Tax Group. He had a distinguished career with the Internal Revenue Service for 10 years. As a veteran IRS Revenue Officer / Agent, he served as an Offer in Compromise Tax Specialist and Large Dollar Case Specialist.

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