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IRS adding 3,500 phone reps to answer stimulus payment calls

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The Internal Revenue Service is bringing in 3,500 telephone operators to deal with the flood of calls about economic impact payments from taxpayers waiting for their money from the IRS.

The $2 trillion CARES Act that Congress passed in March included provisions to give individual taxpayers $1,200 each, $2,400 for couples, plus an extra $500 for each of their dependent children to help them get through the economic fallout from the novel coronavirus pandemic. While 140 million of the 150 million payments have been sent oiut, according to figures from the IRS on Monday, numerous problems quickly emerged.

The IRS relied on direct deposit information from taxpayers’ 2018 and 2019 tax returns, when it was available. But many bank accounts were temporary ones set up by tax prep chains for doing refund transfers, and there was no record of the taxpayer’s own bank account. Taxpayers were asked to enter their own direct deposit information online in such cases, and many are still awaiting their checks. The paper checks only recently started being sent out, and in some cases the IRS didn’t have the most up-to-date addresses for taxpayers. In some cases, payments were mistakenly sent to deceased taxpayers and people living abroad.

Much of the IRS workforce has been working remotely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, although some have been called back to work to deal with the voluminous unopened paper correspondence that has piled up in trailers outside the IRS offices. Now it is starting to bring back employees to answer the phones and answer questions from anxious taxpayers about the status of their payments, although presumably these employees could work remotely.

The IRS warned Monday that telephone assistance and other services will nevertheless remain limited. The agency expects to bring back additional telephone helpers as state and local advisories allow.

In any case, answers for most of the common questions related to the economic impact payments can be found online on IRS.gov. The IRS regularly posts new and updated responses to the most frequently asked questions about economic impact payments here and in the FAQ page for its Get My Payment tool. Taxpayers who want to know about the status of their economic impact payment can check the Get My Payment page regularly. The information is updated as the IRS continues to process the rest of the payments for delivery.

Answers for most questions about the stimulus payments are also available on the automated message for people who call the phone number provided in the letter they receive about their economic impact payments, known as Notice 1444, a letter signed by President Trump informing them their payment has arrived (whether it has or not). Those who need more assistance at the end of the message will have the option of talking to a live representative.

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