IRS Flooded With Rebate Phone Calls

Wondering about your tax rebate? Considering calling the IRS? You're not alone.

The Internal Revenue Service has received an average of 50,000 calls a day above its normal call volume, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, which oversees the Internal Revenue Service.

Between last month and this month, the agency is expecting to receive a total of 1.8 million calls related to the rebate checks promised under the government's new economic stimulus package. To handle all the calls, the IRS is pulling more than 1,500 employees from other duties to work the phones. This could cost the IRS as much as $681 million in uncollected taxes, according a report last month by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

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The IRS announced last month that the first rebates — about $600 for eligible individuals and $1,200 for couples — would be sent on May 2 via direct deposit, while the first paper checks would be mailed by May 16. The agency is using social security numbers to determine the order in which checks are mailed, according to a statement by the agency. Those whose social security numbers end in between 00 and 20 will be the first to receive checks; those whose numbers end in between 76 and 99 will be the last.

The last direct deposit payments will be sent to taxpayer bank accounts by May 16, while the last of the paper checks will be in the mail by July 11.

The agency warned that a small percentage of rebates could take longer to send out.

Though the stimulus package has been in the works for months, Peter Orszag, director of the Congressional Budget Office, told the House Budget committee in January that the IRS's work on 2007 tax returns would lead to a lag in processing rebates.

"The same [information technology] system and the same people who process rebates are working on that, so basically until the 2007 tax season is closed, the IRS cannot turn in any significant way to processing rebates," he said.
With reports from Matthew Jaffee.