With a stroke of his pen on Thursday, President Joe Biden ushered in a series of sweeping pandemic relief measures: checks of $1,400 or more to individuals and families, a new child tax credit hailed as a revolutionary anti-poverty measure, and a major tax break for millions of people who took unemployment benefits last year.
In an instant, however, the $1.9 trillion relief bill created a crushing amount of work for the government agency tasked with making its lofty programs a reality: the Internal Revenue Service.
The perennially overworked and widely loathed tax agency had already been struggling to achieve its main annual goal—processing income tax filings—even before the American Rescue Plan passed. As of Thursday, it is sending out tax refunds 32 percent slower than it did last year, according to the agency’s weekly tax seasons statistics report. In February, the IRS’ internal watchdog said that only one out of every 11 calls to the agency were even getting an answer.