OGDEN — The U.S. Internal Revenue Service is scaling back operations, the federal agency said in a statement Tuesday.
Whether the change impacts the Ogden IRS locations remains unclear, though news agency Bloomberg reports that offices here were among the sites to experience staffing reductions stemming from coronavirus concerns.
Officially, the IRS said in a statement on its website that it is taking “multiple steps” to protect workers and taxpayers.
“Although we are curtailing some operations during this period, the IRS is continuing with mission-critical functions to support the nation, and that includes accepting tax returns and sending refunds,” Tuesday’s statement reads. The statement didn’t spell out changes at any specific work locations and the IRS didn’t respond to a Standard-Examiner query seeking additional details.
The IRS is the biggest employer in Ogden, with some 5,000 workers, and the coronavirus outbreak has caused concern among workers here and at other IRS locations across the country, labor leaders say. Many work in relatively close proximity of each other, and labor officials last week variously called for a reduction in staffing or even closure of federal offices with more than 50 workers to guard against the spread of the disease.
Reps from the union representing workers here, the National Treasury Employees Union, didn’t respond to Standard-Examiner queries on Tuesday seeking comment. But an NTEU memo last Friday offered tough words after IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig announced staffing would be cut in half at some locations to allow for social distancing.
“While there are no hard numbers available, submission processing employees know that even with those cuts and restrictions there are still several hundred employees at work in a single location and that is too risky. On top of that, there is a distressing and dangerous lack of basic cleaning and sanitation supplies in these worksites,” reads the NTEU statement to union members.
The NTEU lauded some of the IRS efforts, but the memo said more needs to be done. All IRS facilities should be closed for two weeks so they can be thoroughly cleaned, and all facilities with 50 or more workers should be closed “in accordance with (Centers for Disease Control) guidance on limiting gatherings,” among other things.
Though the IRS statement doesn’t talk about specific agency locations, Bloomberg reported Friday that an internal email from Rettig to employees called for temporary staffing reductions at IRS locations in Ogden; Kansas City, Missouri; Austin, Texas; and Fresno, California.
Last week, the agency announced that the filing and payment deadline on tax returns would be extended from April 15 to July 15, potentially easing the workload on IRS employees and allowing for reduced staffing. It also announced that IRS taxpayer assistance centers, where filers can go to get questions answered, had been closed and “face-to-face service” across the country would be indefinitely halted.