The latest publication from the Internal Revenue Service is getting all the sendup worthy of a new best-seller. The Data Book for 2020 recounts the agency’s effort to deal with tax season during the time of the coronavirus.
Admittedly, the numbers supply a heroic read.
The Data Book spans the 2020 fiscal year, running from Oct. 1, 2019 to Sept. 30, 2020. Among other things, the Data Book recounts how the IRS responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, by developing new technology and equipment that allowed agency employees—thousands of employees—to work from home. This, in turn, allowed the IRS to continue processing tax returns and provide telephone assistance to taxpayers.
IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig is understandably proud of his agency and its people for their hard work and teamwork during the pandemic.
"This year's Data Book describes the important work that IRS employees accomplish on behalf of the public," said Rettig. "The IRS accounts for approximately 96% of the funding that supports the federal government's operations, while proudly serving and interacting with more Americans than any other public or private organization."
"The 2020 Data Book also details the extraordinary measures the IRS took to protect the health and safety of taxpayers and IRS employees during the COVID-19 pandemic while implementing critical economic relief legislation—the largest economic rescue packages in US history," Rettig added.
The 2020 Data Book also describes how the IRS eased the burden on taxpayers during the pandemic by extending the federal tax deadline to file and to pay from April 15 to July 15, 2020.
If all this sounds like it’s not enough to keep an entire federal agency busy, the IRS also debuted its People First Initiative during this time. The new program eased payment guidelines, delayed compliance actions, and suspended most collection enforcement actions, such as liens and levies, from April 15 to July 15, 2020.
The IRS giveth
To help combat the huge downturn to the economy the pandemic left in its wake, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This new law sent nearly 162 million Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) directly to American taxpayers in the first round alone. The IRS played a leading role, sending out the actual payments to taxpayers.
A second round of 146.5 million EIPs was sent out by the IRS in 2020, bringing the calendar year’s direct-payment relief total to nearly $413 billion (yet another round of relief payments would go out in 2021).
While processing and sending out relief payments, the IRS still had to continue to handle incoming federal income tax returns, processing over 240 million returns and collecting almost $3.5 trillion in federal taxes over the fiscal year.
The IRS Data Book for 2020 includes some 33 tables that describe all the agency’s work during the fiscal year, from the returns processed to the revenue collected, audits and collection activities, as well as budget and personnel figures.
While Commissioner Rettig encourages people to have a look at the 2020 Data Book, he stresses that the IRS story goes beyond statistics, charts and tables.
“IRS employees care, and our agency is made up of people who give back to their communities and help one another. Our employees provide significant support for those devastated by hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters, and across the nation, they did amazing work in their communities to help those impacted by COVID-19,” Rettig said.