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WASHINGTON – In an effort to address a backlog of unprocessed tax returns and other correspondence, the IRS is looking to hire thousands of people.

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The Internal Revenue Service made the announcement Thursday as it works to address the tens of millions of tax filings that need to be processed, The Associated Press reported. The IRS said it plans to rely more on automated processes and bring in contract workers to help in the mailroom and with processing paper.

The agency is currently facing a backlog of 20 million pieces of correspondence, according to the AP, which is 15 times larger than the normal filing season. Nearly all those unprocessed documents date back to the 2020 filing season, The Washington Post reported.

The IRS said it plans to hire for 80 positions in the coming weeks, ranging from entry-level clerical employees to advanced engineers and tax attorneys, The Washington Post reported. The new hires will be paid with money from the agency’s existing budget as well as stimulus funding it received in the wake of COVID-19.

In all, the IRS plan includes creating a 700-person team to process new returns, as well as 2,000 contractors to respond to taxpayer questions, The Associated Press reported.

The agency plans to start its hiring with job fairs in Kansas City, Missouri; Austin, Texas; and Ogden, Utah, between now and April 1, The Wall Street Journal reported. Exceptions to normal hiring rules will allow the IRS to get people working on site within 45 days instead of the typical four to six months, according to The Wall Street Journal.

A government official told The Washington Post that the agency does not expect to get through the full backlog of correspondence until the end of 2022, but it hopes that bringing on thousands of workers will help restore public confidence and improve its customer service.