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Federal Tax

IRS to Hire New Wave of Customer Service Reps

Tim Shaw  

Tim Shaw  

The IRS is set to begin using its new funding from the Inflation Reduction Act (PL 117-169) to onboard hundreds of new staff and bring its taxpayer service locations to full capacity, the agency announced. (IR 2022-197, 11/9/2022)

Seven hundred positions have been opened at the IRS’ nationwide Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs), according to a November 9 release.

“This is an important priority to provide more service at the IRS for the upcoming filing season,” said Taxpayer Experience Officer and Wage and Investment Commissioner Ken Corbin. “We are working to have more than 270 walk-in sites properly staffed to provide the help taxpayers need and deserve. This will be the first time in a decade our walk-in sites will be fully staffed.”

Among the available jobs are individual taxpayer advisory specialists who provide in-person assistance, as well as initial assistance representatives who serve as taxpayers’ first point of contact at TAC offices. Additionally, the IRS stated its plans to increase hiring throughout its divisions, especially in the areas of information technology and compliance. It said it has already brought on over 4,000 new hires in “critical” customer service representative roles.

Prior to the inflation bill’s enactment and before the IRS secured its $80 billion over the next decade, the agency has had systemic recruiting and training issues. A March 2019 report to Congress by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that a diminished workforce—which began shrinking in 2011—was severely detrimental to its “strategic human capital management,” or its workforce planning activities. In other words, the IRS struggled to manage resource restraints caused by a roughly $2.1 billion budget reduction through 2018.

“IRS has skills gaps in mission critical occupations, and the agency’s efforts to address these skills gaps do not target the occupations in greatest need, such as tax examiners and revenue officers,” the GAO found in its report. Implementation of a workforce planning initiative was behind schedule and put on hold due to a lack of funding.

In her 2020 Annual Report to Congress, National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins pointed to the IRS’ aging workforce as an area of concern. At the end of fiscal year 2020, approximately 21% of IRS employees were eligible to retire. Collins wrote at the time that the IRS’ Human Capital Office (HCO) was not ready to handle a possible high attrition rate and significant turnover.

“If the IRS does not make significant changes, these staffing shortages will compound and pose significant threats to the U.S. Treasury and harm taxpayer services and taxpayer rights,” she warned. Collins in a subsequent report gave credit to the HCO’s efforts to course correct before the $80 billion appropriation became reality.

She said that the HCO had “taken steps to mitigate” attrition and budget constraints by “hiring additional staff and implementing organizational and process changes.” Still, she emphasized that about 5,600 employees depart the IRS each year, and when retirees are factored in, as many as 32% of workers could leave the IRS over the course of a year.

More recently, in her fiscal year 2023 Objectives Report to Congress, this area remained a top priority. Per the report released in June, the IRS “continues to experience significant challenges with timely recruiting, hiring, and training employees to effectively carry out its mission.” Some actions have been taken this year to address the problem, such as the establishment of a direct-hire authority to bring on 10,000 employees in the Wage and Investment Division’s Accounts Management and Submission Procession organizations.

The IRS has publicly recognized the importance of hiring and retaining a capable roster of taxpayer service providers. One of its major goals outlined in its five-year strategic plan, which encompasses fiscal years 2022-2026, is simply titled “People.”

“By supporting flexible work environments and career paths, the IRS aims to build a culture that values and empowers employees to maximize their potential,” read the plan. “Cultivating a culture that exceeds employee expectations will help us retain talent and fill critical workforce gaps caused by retirements and new skill demands.”

 

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