White House press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged on Friday that the current level of customer service provided by the Internal Revenue Service "is not what the American public deserves," urging Congress to provide more funding to the agency that is already way behind as tax season begins.
Psaki was asked during a press briefing how the Biden administration plans to ensure that 2021 returns would be processed in a reasonable amount of time, given that the IRS is operating at reduced staff levels with less funding from Congress during the busiest season of the year.
The press secretary replied that a lot of the stresses on the IRS predate the current administration.
"As the Treasury Department and the IRS have said, the IRS right now has an unacceptable backlog, and the customer service that people are receiving is not what the American public deserves – and the president is very mindful of that," Psaki said. "Many of those challenges are related to the pandemic, but also due to years of underfunding from Congress."
Psaki said that IRS "has not been equipped with the resources it needs to adequately serve taxpayers in normal times, let alone during a pandemic." Referring to the multi-trillion-dollar Build Back Better Act that has stalled in Congress, she said that President Biden "has prioritized ensuring the IRS gets 80 billion of stable, multi-year funding resources that it needs to best serve the American people."
Psaki added, "We would call on Congress to act now to give the IRS the funding it needs to meet its goal."
According to a Congressional Budget Office report from 2020, the IRS saw a 20% reduction in Congressional appropriations in inflation-adjusted dollars since 2010, leading to a 22% reduction in staff.
Since that report, the agency was tasked with the tremendous responsibility of distributing several pandemic-related stimulus checks along with monthly Advanced Child Tax Credit payments, all while facing an unprecedented uptick in call volume amid additional COVID-19-related staffing shortages.
A recent report from National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins estimates that as of mid-December, the IRS had a backlog of more than 8.6 million unprocessed individual income tax returns and another 2.8 million business returns – and that's ahead of the wave of returns the agency will begin receiving Monday when this year's season kicks off.
While the Build Back Better agenda does propose an additional $80 billion in annual funding to the IRS, the Biden administration has called for using the funds to hire some 87,000 additional IRS agents for the purpose of further tax enforcement rather than for improving customer service for taxpayers.
FOX Business' Megan Henney contributed to this report.