House lawmakers introduce bill to expedite processing of tax returns

A group of House Republicans introduced legislation that would block the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from receiving the $80 billion appropriation from the Inflation Reduction Act until the tax return backlog from the 2020 tax year has been eliminated.

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Congress has approved an additional $80 billion for the IRS over the next 10 years to hire workers to close the estimated $600 billion tax gap, which is taxes owed by not paid, mostly by high-net-worth individuals and corporations.

The Require Employees to Uniformly Return Now (RETURN) Act (H.R. 8742) would also prohibit the IRS from authorizing its employees to work from home and calls upon them to return to the office, only allowing for the telework options that existed for certain individual cases before the pandemic.

“The IRS has been terribly mismanaged by the Biden Administration, and there are extensive delays processing returns, leading to frustration for taxpayers,” Rep. Dan Meuser (R-PA), one of the bill’s sponsors, said. “Now, under the Inflation Reduction Act, there are plans to double the size of the IRS. When a department is failing due to poor management, the worst thing we can do is expand the workforce. This bill will prohibit an expansion until the IRS can do the job it had done in the past and reach a reasonable level of processed returns.”

At the end of May, the IRS reported a backlog of 21.3 million unprocessed paper returns — an increase of 1.3 million over the same time last year. Prior to the pandemic, the IRS typically delivered refunds to paper filers in four to six weeks. However, refund delays on paper returns are running six months, with common delays of up to 10 months.

“The Biden IRS is in crisis with a massive backlog of unprocessed tax returns, unanswered phone calls, and bureaucratic delays due to IRS’s employees ‘working’ from home,” U.S. Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX), also a sponsor of the bill, said. “The RETURN Act would not only bring these employees back into the office but also require IRS to eliminate the 2020 backlog and prioritize refunds before spending one dime on auditors who will just squeeze taxpayers of their hard-earned money.”

The IRS Commissioner testified before the Senate Finance Committee in April that 53 percent of the IRS workforce works from home, and the rest are on a flex schedule. Telework was originally allowed as a precaution during the pandemic but has continued despite the IRS having a 98 percent vaccination rate for its employees.

“As our nation and most of the world have turned the corner from the dire times of COVID-19, there is no excuse for government employees not to return to the office and work efficiently for the American people,” Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL), one of the sponsors, said. “I am proud to support the RETURN Act, which will expedite millions of unprocessed refunds and improve the productivity of this lethargic government agency. Additionally, this bill halts Biden’s $80 billion appropriation for the IRS until they fulfill the backlog.”

U.S. Reps. Andrew Garbarino (R-NY) and Darrell Issa (D-CA) are also bill sponsors. U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) introduced similar legislation in the House.