WASHINGTON – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) today introduced the Require Employees To Uniformly Return Now (RETURN) Act, which would require that teleworking Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees return to in-office work in order to remedy the growing backlog of unresolved tax returns.
“IRS employees continue to work from home in the face of an enormous tax return backlog and crippling inflation. My RETURN Act would ensure that these employees get back to the office so the IRS can finally get hardworking Americans their tax refunds,” said Kennedy.
The IRS is facing a backlog of more than 8 million tax returns from 2021. Prior to widespread teleworking, the backlog was approximately 1 million.
The IRS claims the backlog is partially due to the pandemic, which forced IRS employees to work from home. Ninety-one percent of the agency—totaling 72,403 IRS employees—teleworked in Fiscal Year 2021, despite mounting logistical shortcomings like increased hold times. Callers in 2022, for example, waited an average of 29 minutes to speak to an agent, up from 23 minutes in 2021. Additionally, Americans made 173 million phone calls to the IRS in 2022, but only 13 percent of callers actually reached an IRS representative.
This backlog persists despite a recent allocation of $80 billion to the IRS to hire additional agents.
The RETURN Act would require all IRS employees teleworking due to pandemic precautions to return to full-time, in-office work until the IRS Commissioner determines the backlog is resolved.
The bill would maintain telework options that existed for select circumstances prior to the pandemic and allow a five-day grace period after enactment to allow employees to transition back to the office.
Text of the RETURN Act is available here.