WASHINGTON, DC—As the second round of economic impact payments (EIPs) begins to be distributed, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced today that it would heed the call of the Ways and Means Committee and reopen the EIP mailbox for congressional offices. In 2020, after congressional offices experienced a high volume of requests from desperate constituents attempting to access their EIPs, the IRS created a dedicated mailbox for offices to have a more direct pathway to receive assistance for constituents from the agency. Although the mailbox was closed at the end of last year, it now will be available once again to field offices’ questions and resolve constituent issues regarding both the initial round of EIPs and the new round authorized in the end-of-year COVID relief package.
Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) released the following statement regarding the news:
“While the congressional EIP mailbox has not been perfect, it offered much-needed assistance to Americans, and I’m relieved that the IRS has agreed to our request to make the tool available through the end of this filing season to help resolve constituent issues. Our offices have been inundated with requests from constituents who still have unresolved issues from the first round of EIPs, and we anticipate receiving further questions regarding the new, second round of payments. It is welcome news that we will again have access to this tool as we work to resolve our constituents’ EIP issues and ensure all eligible people receive the relief they’re due.”
Last month, Chairman Neal and Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ), along with Committee Democrats, requested the IRS keep the EIP mailbox open through the end of the next filing season.
Who is going to be reviewing those mail boxes? The horned helmet guy and his furry friends or someone that actually works in the Capitol?
The horned helmet guy went to the high school where my daughter taught. She didn't have him in a class, but his two younger brothers were cheerleaders when she coached girls basketball. He is well known in his home town, despite efforts by the rumor mongers to deny he's a right-wing reactionary.
But those emails are going to be answered by the National Taxpayer Advocate, if she wants to protect her budget and avoid time on the Hill answering questions from appropriators about why they get no respect. A Congressional has always been a good way to make an end-run around TA's who ignore real problems from real people. (Of course, even the TA is just another part of IRS, despite constant assertions to the contrary.)
Internal Revenue Manual
Congressional inquiries, whether by letter, fax, e-mail or telephone call, will be assigned and worked depending on the following criteria:
Tax account related congressional inquiries will be assigned to the LTA [Local Taxpayer Advocate] Office (for example, an inquiry from a constituent where the IRS denied an Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) claim).
Non-tax account related congressional inquiries will be assigned to the Local DL [District Liaison] (for example, an inquiry from a constituent wanting to know how to claim the EITC).
. . .For all correspondence that will be worked locally by the DL, an acknowledgement should be sent to the congressional office within two business days of receipt. Timing of a final response may depend on support from other IRS components. When a final response is delayed, interim responses should be sent every two weeks, unless the congressional office agrees that less frequent updates are appropriate. All congressional inquiries should be resolved within 20 days of receipt, unless support from another IRS component prevents it.
IRM 1.10.1 provides a general guide for formatting written correspondence. See also IRM 11.3.4, Disclosure of Official Information - Congressional Inquiries.
Any congressional correspondence received that could have nationwide implications should be brought to the attention of the DCL [District Congressional Liaison] Branch Chief.
DLs should document all written responses to congressional inquiries per instruction in IRM 184.108.40.206.4, Program Controls.
CAP Contacts Database: This database is used by DLs to record inquiries from congressional offices. DLs are required to record all significant inquiries. For purposes of this paragraph, significant inquiries are those that require more than 5 minutes to resolve. However, DLs are encouraged to record all inquiries. The data collected by this database is used by the Chief, DCL Branch to provide leadership with monthly trend analyses and quarterly business performance results (BPR). Instructions for DLs and other database users are available on the DCL branch SharePoint site.
Outlook Tasks: An Outlook Task will be created for each congressional inquiry that cannot be immediately resolved. The CAP Contacts Database offers a convenient option to create a task while recording a new contact in the database. Information from the new contact will be automatically copied to the task.
I should probably mention here that my son once worked on a Senator’s local staff and is familiar with how this system works in practice.
Congressional Office Visits
It is important that the DL and LTA coordinate regular local congressional visits. The purposes of these visits are to:
Develop and maintain relationships and reinforce communications channels.
Discuss corporate messages and topics of mutual interest.
Planning the Visits
The DL and LTA should identify trends and subjects for discussion. Review recent congressional correspondence from Members to identify issues so the DL and LTA can be prepared for possible discussion.
Check with the operating/functional divisions to identify current national and local issues or items of interest. Working with Stakeholder Relationship Management Local Councils is one way to identify operating/functional divisions issues (i.e., small business workshops, changes in procedures, Taxpayer Assistance Center hours and services, VITA, etc.).
Develop a specific agenda and/or outline, tailored to individual offices or Members, if necessary.
Prepare handouts and/or information packets (i.e., press releases, VITA site listings, contact numbers for constituents, announcements of special IRS events, etc.).
Make contact with congressional staff to schedule the visits at least one month in advance
Suggest a date and time for the visit and ask for an appointment. Typically, 30-60 minutes should be sufficient. Also discuss a tentative agenda and ask if there are any concerns that they would like addressed. Be flexible with scheduling visits because the chosen dates and times may not work for the congressional staff.
To confirm the appointment, send each staff member an e-mail or letter with date, time and topics.