IRS Tax Day Message: Thank You for Filing | Opinion

Monday marks April 18, the annual tax deadline and a unique day for citizens of our nation. On behalf of the employees of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), I want to thank everyone for taking the time to file and pay their taxes. This civic duty is important to our great nation in many ways, by funding critical needs essential to our democracy on issues ranging from schools and roads to defense. The IRS collects about $4.1 trillion a year, about 96 percent of the U.S. gross revenue.

This tax season has been unlike any other. The COVID-19 pandemic left a series of new challenges in its wake—and for the first time, the IRS was called upon to distribute emergency resources to millions of struggling families and businesses. IRS employees did not hesitate, fighting hard during the pandemic to deliver on every front. Working around the clock and in person throughout almost all of the last two years, IRS employees distributed three rounds of stimulus checks and advanced the Child Tax Credit—delivering nearly $1.5 trillion in needed relief to the American people. There is more to be done: Millions of returns are awaiting processing, and billions in refunds are still to be distributed. But our work is paying off. Refunds are rapidly being sent to the vast majority of taxpayers within 21 days, with 70 million refunds worth $222 billion delivered through April 8.

We take great pride in that, but we also know that this has been a season of frustration for many people, including those still waiting for us to process their tax returns from last year, those who filed amended returns, those who face delays and those who tried calling our phone lines and faced long wait times—if they could get through at all. This is frustrating for all of us at the IRS as well. I want to assure you that our employees are working hard, day-in, day-out; even at night and on the weekends to help people. They are doing everything they can because they want to serve you.

Unfortunately, our already scant resources are stretched thin—and consistent underfunding has significantly hindered the service we're able to provide. Over the course of the last decade, the IRS' budget fell more than 15 percent in real terms. Because of this decrease, in 2021 we realized less than 79,000 full-time positions, which is close to 1974 levels. Since 2010, IRS enforcement personnel fell by 30 percent, while the nation's real Gross Domestic Product increased by 29 percent, and the filing population has increased by 14 percent. Over the next six years, we estimate we will need to hire 52,000 employees just to maintain our current levels. Every measure that is important to effective tax administration has suffered tremendously in recent years, with profound deficiencies resulting from underinvestment in human capital and information technology.

To be clear, the commitment of IRS employees remains steadfast and undeterred. Our workforce is strong and remains our most important resource, and I'm pleased to report our plans to hire up to 10,000 new employees to replace retiring workers and address other needs are going well. We've offered positions in the last few weeks to more than 2,500 people. We are committed to returning to healthy levels of inventory this year, and our focus on this will continue in the weeks and months ahead as the IRS begins preparing for the 2023 tax season.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building is pictured. Zach Gibson/Getty Images

All of us at the IRS want to serve taxpayers well. We want our phones answered quickly. We want the nation's tax laws enforced fairly. We want people to get the help they need whenever they need it. But to do this, the IRS needs help. Our resources are vastly overextended. The president's fiscal year 2023 budget proposal, which provides $14.1 billion for the IRS, will allow the agency to take important steps forward in improving taxpayer service, modernizing our systems and ensuring fairness in the tax system. But for the IRS to truly be able to deliver for the American people with long-term improvements, we need stable, multi-year funding in place to allow the agency to rebuild.

The success of our nation is closely tied to the success of the IRS. And as today is Tax Day, I want to thank you on behalf of all of my colleagues at the IRS for doing your part to help our great country.

Chuck Rettig is the 49th commissioner of the IRS. As commissioner, Rettig presides over the nation's tax system, which collects more than $3.5 trillion in tax revenue each year. This revenue funds most government operations and public services. He manages an agency of about 80,000 employees and a budget of approximately $11 billion.

In leading the IRS, Rettig is focused on improving service to the nation's taxpayers, balancing appropriate enforcement of the nation's tax laws while respecting taxpayer rights.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.