IRS Employees on Paid Leave During Pandemic Has Dropped by 87% From Peak of 35,000

IRS Employees on Paid Leave During Pandemic Has Dropped by 87% From Peak of 35,000

The Internal Revenue Service found itself severely short staffed in the initial weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. 


As Government Executive reported at the time, a significant portion of the IRS workforce was sent home without the capacity to telework when the agency opted to close its offices. A new inspector general report found 35,000 IRS workers were placed on “weather and safety leave” in late March 2020—meaning they were sent home with full pay, but not working—representing about 44% of the total workforce. The employee unavailability came at an inopportune time for IRS, which had just delayed the tax filing deadline and been tasked with delivering stimulus checks to millions of Americans. 


Employees told Government Executive at the time they were ready and willing to work remotely, but the agency told them it did not have sufficient laptops or other resources to support their telework. The number of employees on administrative leave remained high for several weeks, the IG found, but began to drop precipitously in early May. By that month, IRS had distributed 12,600 laptops to employees to enable them to work remotely. 


The agency continued to identify employees who could work from home and distribute the proper equipment to them, eventually cutting the staffers on weather and safety leave to 6,700 by late September. In addition to distributing 18,000 laptops by that time, the agency slowly began reopening it offices and recalling workers. 


By early June, about 15,000 IRS employees reported to their offices at least part time. By mid-July, that jumped to more than 23,000 workers. 


In Octob ..