Rather than working through its backlog, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) purposefully destroyed 30 million taxpayer documents including W-2 forms and 1099 forms. These actions were exposed by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) in May. To this day, the IRS refuses to explain why.
After months of being stonewalled by the IRS, the Oversight Committee, led by Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.), proposed a Request for Information (ROI) that would give the Committee access to the agency’s decision-making process to destroy the documents. Unfortunately, Democrats voted against this request, refusing to hold the agency responsible for its problematic actions.
TIGTA’s report explains that the IRS’s decision was made, in part, due to their inability to process paper backlogs:
“This audit was initiated because the IRS’s continued inability to process backlogs of paper-filed tax returns contributed to management’s decision to destroy an estimated 30 million paper-filed information return documents in March 2021.” (emphasis added)
A stack of 30 million pieces of paper would reach a height of two miles long. This amount of paper would fill up about a dozen dump trucks. Getting rid of this volume of paper would, in theory, be quite difficult. Did the IRS burn them? Shred them? Drive them to a landfill?
This reckless move, of course, has put millions of taxpayers in awful situations, prolonging their returns from being processed.
This filing season, taxpayers have spent millions of hours trying to reach the agency, with only about “19 to 20%” of taxpayer calls actually reaching someone at the agency. Much of this time is spent trying to prove to the IRS that they did, in fact, submit their tax forms.
In this way, taxpayers have spent valuable time of theirs trying to prove the existence of a document that the IRS could have destroyed.
As of mid-August, the IRS had 8.7 million unprocessed individual tax returns from 2022 and previous years. Only 1.7 million of these were found to contain errors or require further review. The rest have yet to be reviewed at all.
With more Americans living paycheck to paycheck and record-high inflation, this delay is harmful.
Recently, refund delays for paper-filed returns have exceeded six months. Many wait 10 months or more now. For Americans who depend on their money being returned to them, delays can be devastating. These Americans did not sign up to give the government a long-term, interest-free loan.
For these Americans, the IRS’s destruction of documents is a slap in the face. When its workload became too overwhelming, it appears the agency just tried to make it disappear.
Notably, if small businesses or individuals simply didn’t uphold their duties to file taxes, they’d be sent to prison.
The IRS must explain its decision-making process. It is unacceptable that an agency ignores the multiple attempts of Republican lawmakers to receive at least some kind of explanation. If Democrats and IRS leadership have their way, we may never know what happened.