Thousands more Internal Revenue Service employees are will be back in their offices this month, starting Monday, June 15.
They're the second wave of IRS staff to return to work after the agency in mid-March sent more than half of its 81,000 staff home as a way to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
More than 10,000 IRS workers in Kentucky, Texas and Utah were called back on June 1, primarily to deal with the million-plus pieces of U.S. Postal Service mail that had piled up in their absence.
Those returning to their offices tomorrow are IRS personnel in Georgia, Michigan, Missouri and Tennessee.
A third group of workers will return to IRS campuses in California, Indiana, Ohio, Oregon and Puerto Rico on June 29.
This month's back-in-office workers follow the addition in May of 3,500 IRS telephone representatives to answer some of the most common questions about Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act's Economic Impact Payments.
And the upcoming June dates of 15 and 29 are this week's By the Numbers featured figures.
In-office precautions, continued home workers: As with the June 1 recalls, these next two June office returns are to jobs that can't be done sufficiently from home. They include tasks at key processing centers, notice print facilities and call center operations.
But, noted the IRS, in those cases where people can perform their duties at home, the IRS' telework policy remains in effect for the foreseeable future to maximize social distancing.
"The health and safety of our employees will always be our top priority," IRS Commissioner IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig wrote in a message to all agency employees. "Our facilities staff is working around the clock to ensure the appropriate precautions are taken for the well-being of our employees."
That means that the tax offices reopening this month aren't bringing back all employees, but rather just those that perform work that can only be done in person.
The Georgia, Michigan, Missouri and Tennessee re-openings tomorrow include 51 offices with just more than 15,000 employees. Of those, the IRS says 6,500 will resume their non-portable jobs, with 8,500 employees in these facilities continuing to telework.
In two weeks, the resumed staffing in California, Oregon, Indiana, Ohio and Puerto Rico covers 79 offices with about 13,000 total employees. Of those, 7,000 can telework and the remainder will be recalled to perform work that can't be done from home.
The limited recalls, notes the IRS, will allow for proper physical distancing between the employees who do return to their offices.
And, as with the June 1 office work resumptions, any IRS employees who are considered medical high-risk do not have to return to their offices. They can continue to telework or remain on administrative leave.
Conditional union support: Following the IRS announcement, the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), which counts IRS staff among its 150,000 member employees at 33 federal agencies and departments, offered qualified support.
"We understand that the IRS has a backlog of important work that cannot be done remotely and they need to restart systems as soon as possible, but our concerns about the coronavirus pandemic have not changed," said NTEU National President Tony Reardon in a statement.
In addition to ensuring that the IRS workplaces themselves are safe, Reardon noted employee concerns about potential risks of taking public transportation and difficulties in finding safe childcare options.
"We've asked the IRS and the Office of Personnel Management to consider options such as administrative leave, split shifts, job sharing, part-time schedules or other flexibilities," said Reardon.
He also reiterated the union's desire that all federal government offices do more to protect workers by broadening testing capabilities and screening employees when they get to their work sites.
And like many in the tax community, the NTEU supports moving all tax filing deadlines to Oct. 15. The additional months, said Reardon, "would give the agency and employees more time to address the backlog of work and accommodate necessary safety precautions."
Right now, another deadline delay looks unlikely. But as we've seen during this chaotic coronavirus tax season, things can change. And quickly.
|Coronavirus Caveat & More Information
In 2020, we're all dealing with extraordinary circumstances,
both in our daily lives and when it comes to our taxes.
The COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to reduce its transmission
and protect ourselves and our families means that,
for the most part, we're focusing on just getting through these trying days.
But life as we knew it before the coronavirus will return,
along with our mundane tax matters.
Here's hoping that happens soon!
In the meantime, you can find more on the virus and its effects on our taxes
by clicking Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Taxes.