The IRS has called for thousands of employees to return onsite for "mission-critical functions," but some lawmakers are criticizing the agency’s move. This comes as a twist after the IRS ordered all employees to evacuate the worksites as previously discussed in a prior post on March 21, 2020.
IRS Workers Must Obtain Their Own Protective Equipment
After obtaining an internal IRS email sent to employees last week, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., and Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman John Lewis, D-Ga., issued a statement over the weekend criticizing the IRS’s decision to call employees back onsite for work yet require those employees to bring their own face coverings.
"We understand better than nearly anyone in Congress that the IRS is of essential importance to the federal government and to our nation. It is understandable that in carrying out its mission during a crisis, the agency would require some employees to report back to work during perilous times. However, it is completely irresponsible and unethical for the IRS to demand those workers obtain their own protective equipment — this is the responsibility of the federal government to its workers," the lawmakers wrote in a joint statement. "The agency is expecting entirely too much of employees who are likely distraught over the health risks returning to work presents for themselves and for their families, as well as the potential repercussions they could face if they do not clock in on Monday with the mandated equipment in-hand."
Additionally, Neal and Lewis went on to say that IRS Commissioner Charles "Chuck" Rettig told Congress recently that 100 IRS employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19. "The IRS should not require any employees it deems essential to report to work until it is able to provide those individuals with the protective equipment they are required to wear," the lawmakers added.
However, the IRS issued a statement on Saturday, April 25 saying that the agency has requested, but not required, thousands of employees to volunteer to return to work and provided an offer for incentive pay. "No employees have been requested to return to work in a manner inconsistent with federal COVID-19 guidelines, and the requirement for employees voluntarily returning to the workplace to wear face coverings is an example of the IRS exceeding the federal safety guidelines and measures," the IRS said. "Employees can use any face covering that is consistent with CDC recommendations, including those fashioned from common household materials. The IRS also has been working to obtain PPE for our employees and expect many to be delivered as early as this weekend and upcoming week." According to the IRS, employees are needed to fulfill the following key responsibilities:
opening mail that has been held for a number of weeks;
processing of paper tax returns that may offer refunds to taxpayers;
working on returns with refundable credits;
answering taxpayers’ questions on our toll-free lines; and
performing Income Verification Express Service and certain lien/levy functions.
This is a very uncomfortable and uncertain time, but no employee should be required to work without the proper safety measures in place. Wilson Tax Law Group endorses any tax relief efforts being sought to assist those communities, industries, businesses and individuals negatively affected by the outbreak. Although tax relief doesn’t solve the problem it helps mitigate the financial fallout. If you or your business has comments or concerns or requires professional and diligent legal tax help, contact the Wilson Tax Law Group at 949-397-2292. Wilson Tax Law Group, APLC is an Orange County law firm specializing in Federal and State tax audits, internal compliance, FBAR, offshore bank account disclosures, and criminal tax, including appeals, trials, and collections. The Los Angeles and San Francisco Daily Journals have named Wilson Tax Law Group as one of the “Top 20 Boutique Firms in California”. Firm founder Joseph P. Wilson is a former IRS Attorney, Federal Tax Prosecutor, and California Franchise Tax Board Attorney.
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