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How the partial government shutdown continues to affect the IRS—almost three months after it ended

By Nadia Suhail
April 18, 2019 | Updated on July 1, 2021

The recent 35-day partial government shutdown continues to have an impact on the Internal Revenue Service’s ability to process tax returns. The shutdown came at a bad time for the agency, starting during the lead-up to tax season when the agency typically hires and trains seasonal personnel.

An interim report released this month by the Treasury Inspector General of the Tax Administration examined the IRS’ performance during the 2019 filing season and identifies how the shutdown affected the agency.

  • A five-week delay in training for more than 2,500 customer service personnel—including on tax code changes resulting from the 2017 tax cut law—led to a 26.8% decrease in level of service, calculated by dividing the number of calls answered by the total call attempts. 
  • The IRS hired only 30% of the 8,168 personnel the agency deemed necessary to process submissions, potentially delaying when taxpayers will receive their refunds.
  • The IRS determined its level of service during tax season was 61%, down from the 80% projected prior to the shutdown.
  • Average customer call time in 2019 was 13 minutes versus six minutes in 2018.
  • The number of errors made by IRS employees on tax return forms increased by 400,000, from 2.4 million in 2018 to 2.8 million in 2019.

The IRS is just one example of how government agencies continue to recover from the lapse in funding and how it affects the people they serve.

Nadia Suhail is a former intern on the Partnership’s Communications team.