A must-read from @crampell. The IRS’s computer systems are out of date and patched together, in effect, with duck tape
This funding, which is locked for a decade, will provide the IRS the budget certainty it needs to upgrade systems – and improve servicehttps://t.co/YtLgMZuhwp
— Chuck Marr (@ChuckCBPP) August 9, 2022
Bit late in the evening for such a serious topic, but maybe our resident IRS expert will have the chance to see it. Lots of ‘interactive’ photos in this piece — worth clicking over to read the whole thing:
… As of July 29, the IRS had a backlog of 10.2 million unprocessed individual returns. Blame the pandemic, sure, but also the agency’s embarrassingly outdated, paper-based system, which leaves stacks and stacks of returns cluttering shelves, hallways and even the cafeteria.
On the Pipeline, paper tax returns aren’t scanned into computers; instead, IRS employees manually keystroke the numbers from each document into the system, digit by digit…
Taxpayers are trapped in this time warp because Congress has systemically underinvested in the IRS. Its funding was cut for most of the past decade, despite the agency receiving evermore responsibilities: stimulus checks, child tax credit payments, Obamacare enforcement, foreign bank account tracking and, lately, hunting down Russian yachts. Without reliable, long-term funding guarantees, the IRS has struggled to upgrade its systems.
I recently took a (chaperoned) tour of the Pipeline, which is usually off-limits to journalists. Imagine Willy Wonka’s secretive chocolate factory, but instead of gumdrops and lollipops it’s … paper. Everywhere, paper…
A single lap through this facility’s Pipeline is about a quarter-mile. The IRS warns on its website that the whole process can take six months or more. And that’s if no errors are detected.
Treasury and IRS officials say they hope additional funding will allow them to automate more of this process, so returns can move through more swiftly. They’re not particularly worried about employees getting displaced by automation; about a third of IRS employees are already eligible for retirement. There’s also more than enough work to go around. (See: that 10.2-million-return backlog.)
In the meantime, it’s astonishing that the system has survived this long, since it seems to be held together with duct tape and string. When I mentioned this to Desselle, the mailroom manager, he corrected me.
“That’s too generous,” he said. “It’s more like Scotch tape and string.”