At Hearing, Portman Urges IRS Commissioner to Prioritize Getting Individuals Delayed Stimulus Checks and Tax Refunds
WASHINGTON, DC – Today at a Senate Finance Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) urged the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Charles Rettig to prioritize issuing delayed stimulus checks to individuals who have not yet received them, especially those who are un-banked or did not have up-to-date information on file. The CARES Act, which passed earlier this year as a rescue package for those affected by the coronavirus, provided direct financial assistance to families in need, including $1,200 for individuals making less than $75,000 and $2,400 for couples making less than $150,000. While the overwhelming majority of individuals, including over six million Ohioans, have received their payments, there are still more Americans waiting on this much-needed relief. In addition, Portman urged the commissioner to address the issue of millions individuals who have not received their tax refunds for this year, even though they filed their returns before the deadline.
Excerpts of the hearing can be found below and a video can be found here.
Portman: “Commissioner Rettig, thank you so much for being with us today and more importantly for your service. Your last year as IRS Commissioner must feel like 10 years and we appreciate all the challenges you’ve faced and how you’ve handled it professionally. I’m going to ask if you questions about some concerns I have, but overall let me say that I’m pleased you got those checks out as quickly as possible. There’s been a lot of discussion on that this morning, but one data point that was in your testimony, in 2008 it took us 10 weeks to get the first check out. 10 weeks into this one we had about 90 to 95 percent of the checks out, and although I was hearing from a lot of my constituents about ‘where is my check,’ I do think that that was one of the areas where we did best in terms of the legislation that we passed here in Congress and getting real help to people right away. It was needed. We may do it again and so I think these questions are appropriate to ask. One is, what are you doing to correct some of the problems that were encountered? In particular, those who did not have a bank relationship -- you know, were un-banked or didn’t have up-to-date personal information -- have had a tough time getting their checks and they log on to Get My Payment, which I’ve encouraged all of them to do in my tele town halls and so on, and they find out their check has gone to another account they’ve never heard of, as an example. So these are folks who often are low-income and need the checks more than anybody, so what’s the status on some of these incorrect or non-delivered payments and what steps are being taken to be sure that incorrect checks are being processed and reissued right away?”
Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig: “Reissuing checks is a priority for the Internal Revenue Service and we actually, you know, take it very seriously. The concept of trying to get these payments out to the eligible Americans as quickly as possible. You know we put together those portals. The first portal with respect to the non-filers was launched on April 10th. The portal with respect to Get My Payment was launched on April 15th. The Get My Payment portal, 14 million people successfully used it. The non-filers portal, 6.1 million people successfully used it and 192 million people successfully verified the status of their payment on the Get My Payment portal. So we have moved forward with that information, but again our focus is on the people who have -- principally they are un-banked people who the IRS is essentially unaware of their existence -- so identifying people and then trying to get payments into their hands and I think that’s one of the reasons why BFS moved to using debit cards. And as far as distribution of payments, one of the limitations was the BFS capacity was about 5 million to 7 million checks per week. The Internal Revenue Service was more or less ready to go by April 10th with the information we had to launch the payments, which is how 81 million payments launched on April 10th.”
Portman: “Well I appreciate your focus on particularly those who are unbanked because those are some folks who need it the most. The other question I have is about refunds. This year, I have been surprised, frankly, to hear how many people filed prior to the deadline. We’re now in the last couple weeks before the deadline and 138 million returns have been processed as of June 19th, which is on par with the 137 million last year, so basically even though you delayed the filing most people didn’t take advantage of that in part because they wanted the refund, but I’m concerned that even though people have filed, they have not had their cash returns processed. As a result, there are many individuals, I'm told, as an example, nearly five million paper returns are sitting unprocessed at a processing center somewhere around the country, as well as the 10 million difference in refunds processed this year compared to last year. So we are taking peoples’ tax returns early but we’re not processing them. As a result these refunds are sitting in the federal Treasury rather than going out people as they should. This of course would be a de facto second stimulus. I mean it would be huge if we can get this money out the door, so it seems to me that should be our top priority right now. We’ve received hundreds of inquiries from constituents who did not have the means to file electronically who need their refund to just make it financially, to make ends meet, to make their car payment, to make their rent. Can you tell us what your plans are to process this backlog of paper returns, in particular, and ensuring the remaining refunds get out the door as quickly as possible?”
Commissioner Rettig: “The paper returns are a high priority for the Internal Revenue Service in terms of processing and I think we’re running through that at about a million a week, reducing the backlog about a million week and so going through that and getting those out is a priority. Similarly with respect to electronically filed returns it might’ve been caught up in a fraud filter or an identity theft situation. Those are also priorities, so the refund side of the house is really the first thing for customer service representatives. I think currently we have about 8,300 folks working those two issues.
Portman: “Well I would just urge you to redouble your efforts there. Again when we’re looking at what’s happening right now in the economy, we’ve still got 10 million people out of work, we’ve still got ourselves in a recession and getting these refund checks out is absolutely critical. And you know, they’re due people so we have the information, that’s something that can be done. I would think that would be a high priority. With regard to the issue of IRS reform, I’ve got a few questions for you I will submit to the record because I want to keep to the Chairman’s time here. And I will just say that, with regard to IRS reforms, we appreciate all you have done. We are looking forward to the restructuring report that is due by September 30th, 2020. The Restructuring Commission that I co-led back in 1997 made a big difference, I think, in trying to improve the agency. It’s time to do it again so we look forward to that restructuring report and I look forward to sending you some additional questions on IRS reform and getting your answer. Again thank you for your service, Commissioner.”