IRS seeks to fast-track 4,000 hires to improve taxpayer experience

The IRS is putting authority from Congress to fast-track new hires to good use.

The IRS is putting authority from Congress to fast-track new hires to good use.

The IRS announced Wednesday it’s looking to hire more than 4,000 contact representative positions at several agency offices across the country.

Contact representatives assist taxpayers over the phone, through written correspondence or in person.

The IRS will hire these employees through its direct-hire authority, which will allow it to bring new employees onboard within 40 to 45 days, rather than several months.

The agency received direct hire authority from Congress in the fiscal 2022 spending bill that President Joe Biden signed into law in March.

The IRS contact representative positions start at a GS-5 level, which pays $14.89 an hour at Step 1.

The IRS is looking to fill positions in 22 cities. The agency is also looking for full-time contact representatives that are bilingual in English and Spanish.

IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig told a subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee last month that the agency planned to hire 10,000 employees — half this year, and the other half next year.

Rettig added that the IRS began holding jobs fairs almost immediately after the fiscal 2022 spending bill passed.

Rettig said about 500 prospective employees showed up at a job fair in Austin, Texas, in March and that the agency made 500 job offers on the spot, which was possible because of its direct hiring authority.

“Congress rescued us. There’s no other way for me to say that with direct hiring authority,” Rettig said told the financial services and general government subcommittee on May 4.

Overall, Rettig said the IRS is showing a 93% offer rate to people who show up at its job fairs.

“They have been very successful. They’ve received a lot of local press in a good way – you know, the government is coming in and giving federal jobs to the community, that type of thing. And without the direct hiring authority that we got in the budget, I would not be able to report anything really positive,” Rettig said.

The IRS is able to bring employees more quickly, but Rettig said the IRS faces challenges competing on pay, especially now that private-sector retailers like Target and Walmart are offering pay as high as $20 an hour for some entry-level positions.

“We come in $15 an hour federal jobs, so we need to be able to hire on the spot,” Rettig said.

The agency is looking for employees to fill a range of shifts – including day shifts that range from 6 a.m. – 6 p.m., mid-day shifts that run from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. and swing shifts that go from 2 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.

IRS Taxpayer Experience Officer and Wage and Investment Commissioner Ken Corbin told the financial services and general government subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee on May 18 that the agency had not achieved half of its goal to hire 5,000 employees.

“We are getting some success with our customer service representative hires, but some of our lower position are paid positions,” Corbin said.

“It is a very competitive market for the positions that we’re trying to fill,” he added.

Corbin said the IRS used funds from COVID-19 relief legislation and the American Rescue Plan to assist in hiring efforts.

“Our goal is to bring the IRS back to a state prior to the pandemic. We have to process these returns. We have to process this paper so that we can get back to the business of providing the service that taxpayers deserve,” he said.

Corbin said the IRS started out calendar year 2022 with about 8.2 million paper returns in inventory at the beginning of this calendar year.

The IRS has created multiple surge teams focused on processing a backlog of paper tax returns. The IRS employees on surge teams come from other parts of the agency, including enforcement and answering taxpayers’ phone calls.

Corbin said that the IRS started this year with a backlog of 8.2 million paper tax returns, but as of May 6, the agency still has 1.7 million returns to process.

“It’s an absolute must that we —my terminology is pretty blunt — crush these inventories. We took people off the phones,  which did not help the level of service,” Rettig said.

The IRS has also brought 2,500 contractor employees to assist with this workload.

“We brought those folks back to help us do that. We also have brought people back in from other parts of the agency to help us in our accounts management function, which is the function that answers the phones and works the paper correspondence,” Corbin said.

The IRS is hosting several virtual information sessions this month, where agency officials will explain the required qualifications and the job duties, as well as share tips for navigating the application process.

The agency will also hold in-person hiring events, where it expects to make tentative job offers to attendees on the spot. Those in-person hiring events will be held in:

  • Andover, Mass.
  • Atlanta
  • Philadelphia
  • Fresno, Calif.
  • Oakland
  • Brookhaven, N.Y.
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Memphis, Tenn.
  • Caguas, Puerto Rico

All employees must be U.S. citizens, pass an FBI fingerprint check and tax compliance verification, and meet the mandatory education, training, and experience qualification requirements

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