Despite hiring 10,000 people, the IRS needs to modernize to make it easier to pay taxes
Ric Edelman: Welcome back to The Truth About Your Future. We've got a big problem with our taxes, don't we? And I'm not just talking about how much you have to pay in taxes. I'm talking about the entire tax preparation process itself. The IRS has 75,000 employees. That's the same number as 1970. But our country has grown in size and economic complexity. The IRS has 30% fewer enforcement staff than they did a decade ago. The audits of millionaires are down 70%. The budget is 20% less than it was 10 years ago. Meanwhile, there's a 7% increase in the number of people filing tax returns.
So what's the IRS doing? Hiring 10,000 more people. Congress just gave the IRS a bunch of new money to go do that. The IRS processes about 160 million tax returns a year. That's what it's going to do for 2021's tax year. But of those 160 million returns, there's a backlog of 24 million. If you mailed in your tax return, that envelope might be sitting in a warehouse along with 24 million other tax returns. One clerk can open about 500 envelopes a day. 500 out of 24 million. That's actually not a criticism of those clerks. That's a pretty good workload. Think about it. How many hours a day is a typical federal worker working? Oh, no, that's not a joke. I mean, seriously. 8 hours a day, you subtract one hour for lunch, 7 hours a day. They're opening 500 envelopes in those 7 hours. That's a pretty aggressive pace, but still, it's only 500 envelopes per worker.
Now you're getting a sense of why the IRS is hiring 10,000 more people. And you can imagine how long is it going to take for the IRS to get caught up? And just about the time it does get caught up. We have a new tax year and a new amount of filing the taxpayers are doing. This is a huge challenge for the IRS, and this explains why you may not yet have gotten your refund. It also explains why you may not be getting answers to your questions.
Ever try to call the IRS on the phone to get an answer to a tax question?
By the way, did you ever try to call the IRS because you had a question? Last year, nearly 300 million phone calls to the IRS. That means roughly every person in the country at some point tried to call for getting answers to their questions about their taxes. Only 11% had their phone calls answered. The others just went into La land and never got through. So this is a big problem and it's only getting worse. It means very simply; you need to express one fundamental behavior when it comes to tax preparation: patience. And that is not a word anybody likes to use when it comes to taxes.