WASHINGTON–The Internal Revenue Service’s Independent Office Of Appeals has seen its cycle times for handling appeals cases stretch to more than year during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the office is working to get it back to pre-pandemic levels.

Speaking May 13, 2022, at the American Bar Association’s May Tax Meeting, office Chief Andy Keyso provided an update on where the agency stands as it, and the IRS as a whole, prepare for all offices to open for employees, as the end of June.

The cycle time for closed cases in fiscal year 2021 reached 372 days, up from 194 days in fiscal year 2018. Keyso noted that the upward trend started from there into FY 2019, where it increased to 229 days due to the government shutdown during that time, and then increased again in FY 2020 to 289 days during the first year of the pandemic that including a temporary shutdown as all employees were sent home and began working remotely.

Despite the increase, Keyso is optimistic that change can happen.

“I’m troubled by the increase in cycle time but I am not defeated by it,” Keyso said. “I believe that it is reversible, and we will reverse it as we get people back in the office.”

His optimism stems from the fact that while cycle times have gone up, it is not because more time is being spent on cases by appeals officers. That time hasn’t changed, he said. The problems are more a function of issues that are plaguing the agency as a whole since the start of the pandemic, including the backlog of processing written correspondence.

Getting that cycle time back down is one of the office’s priorities once people are back in their offices full time, Keyso said.

Cycle times went up despite declines in new case receipts by the office. In FY 2018, the office received 92,430 cases. That number dropped in the following two years to 85,286 in FY 2019 and then to 57,573 in FY 2020 before rebounding to 72,216 cases in the last fiscal year. As expected, total case closures follows a similar trend, with 94,832 cases getting closed in FY 2018, dropping down to 73,207 in FY 2019, and falling again to 62,997 in FY 2020. In the last fiscal year, 66,522 cases were closed.

Collection due process cases make up the most cases handled by the Independent Office of Appeals in FY 2021 (27,420), followed by examination cases (25,247) and then offers in compromise cases (6,858).