As discussed in Part One, I, together with several other IRS executives, had the honor to work side by side with employees in the extraction mailroom at the IRS’s Kansas City campus. It was an illuminating experience, as I gained a different perspective and deep appreciation for their work. I not only observed firsthand what our mailroom employees do every day, but I had the privilege of being assigned to work with the Submission Processing clerks from Unit 31106.
In spending three days with Unit 31106 extraction mailroom clerks, I met many amazing employees and want to thank them for assisting me with the stamping and sorting of returns and correspondence and the candling of discarded envelopes. Throughout the IRS, there are subsets of employees – those beginning their employment, those in mid-career, and those returning to the workforce after retirement. The campus is not any different.
Although I cannot highlight in this blog all the dedicated employees I met in the mailroom, I want to recognize a few to provide a better understanding of their work and commitment to processing taxpayers’ returns.
Arica has been working as a mailroom clerk for about seven years. This is her first full-time job, and she was referred to the IRS by her mother – an IRS employee. One could say it is the family business. During my time opening the mail, date stamping, and sorting it, Arica was a great resource for me by answering my many questions. If you think date stamping and sorting is easy, you do not understand the myriad of factors and procedures that is involved.
Although soft spoken, I noticed she loves making a difference, and when I asked her, she said she has stayed in the position because of her colleagues. Together they make a difference; they are a team. I was happy to learn that she wants to continue her career with the IRS and explore other possibilities when the time is right.
Akira is a lead (line manager), and by all appearances, she juggles many hats for the group. But despite being pulled in many directions, she is upbeat, fun, and the first one to step up if a need arises. Her concern for employees she manages is obvious by her actions.
She not only knows her stuff, but she takes the time to make sure the employees understand the procedures. She is available to them to answer questions. During our three days working toward reducing the backlog, she was very helpful in steering us in the right direction. Her patience and compassion were much appreciated.
Both gentlemen have been with the IRS for many years in a variety of positions. My observation is that they thrive as managers by realizing the importance of supporting their team and making sure employees have what they need to succeed. It was clear they believe it is not about them, but it is about the employees.
I remember Chester saying that his greatest honor would be to attend an employee’s retirement event and be recognized for helping that person succeed in their career – that was Chester’s measure of success. Helping others and putting others first seems to be their unspoken motto.
Jim was a federal contractor for 40 years. He and his wife wanted to extend their retirement nest egg, so he looked around for a position to supplement their retirement income. Of all the positions he considered, Jim found the IRS a most welcoming place to work and joined the workforce about five years ago.
Jim smiles when he talks about his position and the work he does to support the IRS’s mission. He finds it rewarding and feels fulfilled through his contribution.
Like Jim, Mr. Andrew joined the IRS about five years ago to give back, supplement his retirement income, and provide purpose to his life. Since joining, Mr. Andrew has worked part time and just retired at the end of October. I suspect taxpayers are unaware of the production metrics that clerical employees meet daily.
Mr. Andrew more than pulled his weight in meeting the daily quotas. What makes Mr. Andrew different is that he is about to celebrate his 99th birthday this year. He may have been the oldest working IRS employee. His teammates are in awe of his stamina and his wit. He brought a special experience and positive attitude to the position and was everyone’s friend.
Although Janice is not currently in the mailroom, that is where she started with the IRS. Janice is a clerk in the Kansas City Chief Financial Office. When I was introduced to Janice, I immediately heard the excitement in her voice when she talked about her work, her fellow employees, and her volunteerism. Janice is not only thriving at work, but her love for helping others is exemplified by what she does outside of the building.
Over the years, Janice received several volunteer recognitions, including the President’s Volunteer Service Award signed by President Obama, the 2016 Federal Executive Board’s Community Service Award, and the Kansas City Shining Stars Recognition. Janice has provided disaster assistance through her work with the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
It is clear her passion is helping people both inside the campus and throughout communities in need. To quote Janice, “Clerks are often the unsung heroes. We multitask, possess multiple skills, and face a variety of expected and unexpected challenges each day.” I couldn’t have said it better.
These employees are just a few of the people I met during my recent trip to the Kansas City Campus. But these are not the only amazing examples. The building is filled with employees, leads, managers, and executives who work tirelessly on the annual filing season. I am only sorry I did not have the opportunity to spend more time with all the employees.
We are all painfully aware that the past few filing seasons have been extraordinarily difficult for employees, taxpayers, and tax professionals. As the National Taxpayer Advocate, my primary focus is on the impact these taxpayer service challenges have had – and are continuing to have – on taxpayers.
But getting caught up depends, first and foremost, on the work of frontline IRS employees. They have labored under difficult working conditions for the past two years, with antiquated technology, enormous pressure to work quickly, mandatory overtime, and far too little appreciation. I want them to know that I and others in leadership positions care and deeply appreciate their contributions to the IRS’s critical mission. And I want to personally thank them for their efforts.
To quote Commissioner Rettig, “IRS employees rock!”
So, the next time you meet an IRS employee, speak with a representative on the phone, or open a letter from the IRS, please remember that most employees are trying to make a positive impact on your lives despite working under difficult conditions.
With the additional funding Congress has provided for Taxpayer Services and technology improvements, I am hopeful the IRS can put the backlog behind us, improve service for all taxpayers, modernize its technology, and generally focus on creating a fair and equitable tax administration that benefits all taxpayers as we journey into the 21st century.
Stay tuned for Part Three of this Blog, coming soon.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the National Taxpayer Advocate. The National Taxpayer Advocate presents an independent taxpayer perspective that does not necessarily reflect the position of the IRS, the Treasury Department, or the Office of Management and Budget.