What GAO Found
The 2020 filing season occurred during the global COVID-19 pandemic, introducing challenges that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had to respond to quickly to fulfill its mission-essential functions. IRS took steps to protect the integrity of its operations, help ensure the health and safety of its employees, and provide relief to taxpayers. For example, IRS closed all its processing and service facilities for several weeks before re-opening with health and safety measures and extended the filing season deadline to July 15, 2020.
IRS’s 2020 processing of e-filed returns was generally on par with prior years. However, IRS’s overall 2020 performance was significantly impacted by its reliance on manual processes such as for paper returns, and its limited ability to process returns remotely while processing centers were closed. As a result, as of December 2020, IRS had a significant backlog of unprocessed returns and taxpayer correspondence. Additionally, costs increased including interest on delayed refunds which exceeded $3 billion in fiscal year 2020. IRS has not revised its estimates for addressing all of the backlog due to operational uncertainties created by the pandemic. Doing so would help IRS determine how best to address the backlog and perform 2021 filing season activities.
Refund Interest Paid to Taxpayers, Fiscal Years 2019 and 2020
GAO also found that about 23 percent of business tax returns were filed on paper even though an e-file option is available. IRS has not comprehensively identified barriers to business-related e-filing nor taken specific actions to increase e-filing. Doing so would help reduce the volume of costly paper-based work and improve services to business filers. Further, during the filing season, IRS transitioned nearly two-thirds of its phone customer service staff to telework, but was unable to do so for returns processing staff because most of its paper-based work is not set up to be performed remotely. As of late October 2020, about one-third of these staff remained on paid leave. Identifying and implementing alternative work assignments for staff that remain on paid leave would better support IRS operations and reduce costs.
IRS has not fully identified and assessed all risks to the 2021 filing season—including those exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic—consistent with enterprise risk management practices. IRS identified some risks in October 2020 after GAO raised concerns, but did not fully address all essential elements of enterprise risk management, such as identifying options for risk response. Doing so would better position IRS to respond to risks during the 2021 filing season. In early 2021, after receiving a draft of this report, IRS provided additional information on its risk management efforts. GAO will review this information to determine if these efforts are sufficient to address its recommendation.
Why GAO Did This Study
During the annual tax filing season, generally from January to mid-April, IRS processes more than 150 million individual and business tax returns and provides telephone, correspondence, online, and in-person services to tens of millions of taxpayers. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and to provide relief to taxpayers, IRS extended the 2020 filing and payment deadline by 3 months to July 15, 2020.
GAO was asked to review IRS’s performance during the 2020 filing season. This report (1) describes the changes IRS made to operations and services for the 2020 filing season due to the COVID-19 pandemic; (2) assesses IRS’s performance on providing customer service and processing individual and business income tax returns during the 2020 filing season and compare to prior filing seasons, where appropriate; and (3) evaluates IRS’s plans to prepare for the 2021 filing season.
GAO analyzed IRS documents, filing season performance data, and employee timecard data; assessed IRS’s plans for the 2021 filing season; and interviewed cognizant officials.
What GAO Recommends
GAO is making seven recommendations, including that IRS revise estimates for addressing its backlog; identify and address barriers to e-filing for business taxpayers; identify and consider implementing alternative work assignments for returns processing staff on paid leave; and identify and assess risks to the 2021 filing season. IRS agreed with four recommendations and disagreed with three. GAO believes that the recommendations remain warranted.
For more information, contact Jessica Lucas-Judy at (202) 512-6806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Priority Open Recommendations: Department of LaborBy Sam NewsJuly 6, 2021What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified seven priority recommendations for the Department of Labor (DOL). Since then, DOL has implemented one of those recommendations by taking steps to collect better data on how advanced technologies are changing the workplace, which can help DOL and policymakers design training programs that meet the job needs of the future. In May 2021, GAO identified three additional priority recommendations for DOL, bringing the total number to nine. These recommendations involve the following areas: stronger protections for wage earners; enhancing unemployment insurance; and better protections for retirees. DOL's continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in government operations. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact Thomas Costa at (202) 512-4769 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
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- Justice Department, EPA and the State of Indiana Reach Clean Air Act Settlement with Lone Star IndustriesBy Sam NewsJune 3, 2021Lone Star Industries Inc, a subsidiary of Italian company Buzzi Unicem, has agreed to upgrade and optimize pollution control equipment and procedures at its cement manufacturing facility in Greencastle, Indiana, to resolve Clean Air Act (CAA) violations brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of Indiana Department of Environmental Management.[Read More…]
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- Comoros Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel to [Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod at a Joint Press AvailabilityBy Sam NewsMay 17, 2021
- Joint Statement on the Occasion of a Trilateral Discussion among Afghanistan, Tajikistan and the United StatesBy Sam NewsMarch 19, 2021
- Priority Open Recommendations: National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationBy Sam NewsJune 28, 2021What GAO Found In April 2020, GAO identified 12 priority recommendations for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Since then, NASA has implemented one of those recommendations when it calculated the Space Launch System program's developmental cost growth using a baseline adjusted to reflect the scope of work planned for its first mission. GAO also closed two recommendations as not implemented. Since GAO's June 2019 recommendation to update the Orion crew vehicle's cost estimate to reflect the April 2023 baseline launch date for the first mission to carry crew, that mission's launch date has been delayed. There is no longer an opportunity for NASA to take action on this recommendation now that the program no longer expects to launch in April 2023. The second recommendation, closed as not implemented, was for NASA to develop and maintain a contingency plan for ensuring a presence on the International Space Station until a Commercial Crew Program contractor was certified. NASA took actions to maintain a U.S. presence on the space station and provided GAO periodic updates on considerations for maintaining a continued presence, but did not develop and maintain a contingency plan. NASA certified a Commercial Crew program contractor in November 2020. As a result, there is no longer an opportunity for NASA to take action on this recommendation. In May 2021, GAO identified two additional priority recommendations for NASA, bringing the total number to 11. These recommendations involve the following areas: monitoring program costs and execution, and ensuring cybersecurity. NASA's continued attention to these issues could lead to significant improvements in government operations. Why GAO Did This Study Priority open recommendations are the GAO recommendations that warrant priority attention from heads of key departments or agencies because their implementation could save large amounts of money; improve congressional and/or executive branch decision-making on major issues; eliminate mismanagement, fraud, and abuse; or ensure that programs comply with laws and funds are legally spent, among other benefits. Since 2015 GAO has sent letters to selected agencies to highlight the importance of implementing such recommendations. For more information, contact Michele Mackin at (202) 512-4841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Guatemalan Foreign Minister BroloBy Sam NewsFebruary 18, 2021
- Secretary Michael R. Pompeo And Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno MarsudiBy Sam NewsOctober 29, 2020
- California Woman Pleads Guilty to Hate Crime for Threatening to Bomb Catholic Prep SchoolBy Sam NewsJanuary 4, 2021The Justice Department announced today that Sonia Tabizada, age 36, of San Jacinto, California, pleaded guilty in federal court to intentionally obstructing persons in the enjoyment of their free exercise of religious beliefs by threatening to bomb the Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School in Washington, D.C., in violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 247.[Read More…]
- Counselor Chollet’s Trip to UkraineBy Sam NewsJuly 21, 2021
- Former Foreign Exchange Trader Sentenced To Prison For Price Fixing And Bid RiggingBy Sam NewsSeptember 17, 2020Akshay Aiyer, a former currency trader at a major multinational bank, was sentenced to serve eight months in jail and ordered to pay a $150,000 criminal fine for his participation in an antitrust conspiracy to manipulate prices for emerging market currencies in the global foreign currency exchange (FX) market, the Justice Department announced today.[Read More…]
- Curiosity Mars Rover’s Summer Road Trip Has BegunBy Sam NewsSeptember 26, 2020After more than a year [Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Meeting with UK Prime Minister JohnsonBy Sam NewsMay 6, 2021
- Warsaw Process Humanitarian Issues and Refugees Working Group Convenes in BrasiliaBy Sam NewsSeptember 27, 2020
- MOXIE Could Help Future Rockets Launch Off MarsBy Sam NewsDecember 9, 2020NASA’s [Read More…]
- Secretary Pompeo’s Call with Bolivian President-elect ArceBy Sam NewsNovember 4, 2020
- Briefing with Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs Acting Assistant Secretary Julie J. Chung On Secretary Blinken’s Upcoming Virtual Trip to Canada and MexicoBy Sam NewsFebruary 25, 2021Julie J. Chung, Acting [Read More…]
- Statement of Attorney General Merrick B. Garland on the Justice Department’s Implementation of the Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American EconomyBy Sam NewsJuly 9, 2021Attorney General Merrick B. Garland made the following statement after the President’s signing of the Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy:[Read More…]