IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig testifies at the Senate Finance Committee hearing on June 8, 2021.

Tom Williams | Swimming pool | Reuters

The IRS is still digging through tens of millions of unprocessed tax returns with about four weeks to the 2021 filing deadline. But Commissioner Charles Rettig expects the backlog to be cleared by the end of the year.

The pileup, caused by years of budget cuts, understaffing, pandemic-related office closures and extra duties, should “absolutely disappear” by December, Rettig said Thursday, while appearing before the House Ways and Means Committee.

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“Starting today, barring unforeseen circumstances, if the world remains as it is today, we will be ‘healthy’ by the end of calendar year 2022 and enter the 2023 submission season with normal supplies,” he said.

Rettig’s pledge to House lawmakers comes about a week after the agency unveiled plans to hire 10,000 workers to address the backlog, with 5,000 new employees in the coming months.

President Joe Biden signed $12.6 billion for the agency’s 2022 budget on Tuesday, 6% higher than in 2021, as part of the $1.5 trillion omnibus spending package.

“A successful, fully functioning IRS is important to the continued success of the country,” Rettig said during his prepared testimony, reiterating the shortcomings in many parts of the agency.

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