Let's Give Some Kudos to the IRS for the Hard Work They Have Been Doing --

Tax accounting is my area of expertise. It started as an easy way to make money, like doing homework for people that they couldn’t stand doing themselves, so they’re willing to pay very high hourly rates to entice me to do it for them. None of the “careers” that I had considered following early in my life worked out for me. But one day I realized that my easy numbers job had become a career! I have done nearly fifty years of bookkeeping and accounting; thirty-five years of tax preparation.

It’s been a way to make a good living, but not a source for my blogging, until now.

Steven Mnuchin is the first Treasury Secretary I’ve ever seen much on TV and I like him. He has the Cabinet post that oversees the Internal Revenue Service, but that Cabinet Secretary rarely has any impact on the life of those of us in the accounting industry. He’s clearly been doing an excellent job during our pandemonium. At press conferences, he answers questions quickly and definitively, no particular spin, no games, just the facts, ma’am.

Then on March 26 he promised to get the virus stimulus checks to taxpayers in three weeks. I thought, “Oh no, he has no idea how undermanned the IRS has become in the past decade, due to continual budget cuts.” I was sure this could lead to a bureaucratic snafu that the media would love to turn in to one of their usual breaking news stories.

But Mnuchin has surprised me. He seems to be delivering on his promises. He got the IRS to put up web pages that explain what they’re doing about this free money. There are a number of tools that allow taxpayers to enter their bank account information, so they can receive their money by direct deposit. Mnuchin reported that social security recipients who are already receiving their social security income by direct deposit don’t have to do anything. The IRS will just use the same bank account that is already being used for the social security income.

Meanwhile the topic has become the subject of tons of clickbait articles. Every day, Google sends me one or more of these new how to get your free money articles. Harmless enough, maybe even helpful to some. Early on, the IRS had shut down their public taxpayer assistance locations, where one used to be able to go to ask a tax question in person. Maybe these people were helping with getting the free money out to taxpayers.

But today, the other shoe dropped. Of course, the IRS has had to adjust its staff assignments to meet Mnuchin promises. But an obvious solution had not occurred to me. They have shifted staff from processing the 2019 income tax returns to work on sending out the free money instead, an obvious unintended consequence of getting out the stimulus money fast. The article at that link claims the IRS “now has whole storage units full of unopened refund requests as the pandemic drags on.” I have no way to confirm this, but it seems possible.

Here’s the thing, every year the first clients who turn up to get their taxes done are those who are expecting big refunds and want to get their dough as soon as possible. These are often refunds of more than $1,200 per person. That is, more than the free money they will be getting. The IRS has promoted the speed of e-filing for years, which of course makes their job easier and saves them money as it makes it much easier to automate the processing of tax returns. But this year their boss has given them a surprise order to shift their priorities. Get the free money out there as fast as possible! The IRS is doing that, while the returns for those early filers sit in storage.

This is a shame. I’m sure the folks at the IRS have been working really hard to accomplish the new directives they have received from Treasury. Naturally it did not occur to the politicians to send some money to the IRS to help them staff the sending out of all this free money. Everyone is working hard for the good of our country during very difficult times. I hope the media can resist their natural urge to pounce on the government about the inevitable strains to the tax system. This is a very big country, so any initiative to get money to a large portion of our population is bound to run into some problems. Give them a break, folks, maybe even a thank you, here and there.