IRS Shutters Some Offices Amid Unrest, Agency Official Says

By David van den Berg
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Law360 (June 2, 2020, 7:16 PM EDT) -- The Internal Revenue Service has closed some offices because of the nationwide protests and civic unrest following the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, an agency deputy commissioner said Tuesday.

Sunita Lough, the IRS deputy commissioner for services and enforcement, said she had received emails saying some of the IRS' buildings had been shut down because of the protests. Speaking during an American Payroll Association webcast, she noted that the closures come in the week when the agency has started reopening offices in Kentucky, Texas and Utah. Workers were recalled in those states, and some agency employees returned to worksites earlier in response to a request for volunteers.

More than 10 million pieces of agency mail need to be sorted, and the IRS plans to continue reopening offices that closed amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, Lough said.

"We are going to be in a cycle of opening three, four, five states every couple of weeks," Lough said during the webinar.

Chad Hooper, an IRS employee in Philadelphia and president of the Professional Managers Association, which represents agency managers, told Law360 that the agency's service center in Philadelphia was shut down because of civic unrest but said he didn't have a full count of IRS offices that had been closed. He said closures in Philadelphia were announced based on local conditions, so it's unclear when they'll end. Hooper also said Tuesday that he was notified the Philadelphia campus would be closed for the night shift.

"They opened at 6 a.m. today when the city lifted its curfew, but we expect another night of demonstrations, so they made the call to close," he said.

Hooper said that he didn't expect the closures to affect IRS operations significantly and that with more than 50,000 agency employees still teleworking, most of the agency's workforce wouldn't be displaced.

The IRS didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

As of May 16, the agency had a backlog of 4.4 million individual tax returns and 1.4 million business tax returns, according to IRS data compiled by the House Ways and Means Committee. In addition to the unopened tax returns, the agency had about 5 million unopened mail items, including payments, payment vouchers, general correspondence and information returns.

--Editing by Neil Cohen.

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