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IRS asked to delay closing of Andover processing center

Congressional members decry expected layoffs

By John M. Guilfoil
Globe Correspondent / February 15, 2009
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Congressional members from Massachusetts and New Hampshire are again lobbying the Internal Revenue Service to delay a planned closing of a tax-processing facility in Andover, saying it would be "inappropriate" to lay off the estimated 1,400 employees there while the US government is trying to preserve jobs with a multibillion dollar economic stimulus package.

The IRS intends to close the Andover Service Center later this year, based in part on the expectation that its paper-processing facilities won't be needed because most taxpayers will be filing their returns electronically. But a Feb. 10 letter from 15 US senators and representatives to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman noted the agency is far behind its goal of electronically filed tax returns, and that the paper-processing facility will still be needed.

US Representative Niki Tsongas, whose district includes the Andover center, said the closure and subsequent layoff run contrary to what Congress and the Obama administration are trying to do with the newly passed economic stimulus package: save jobs.

"This is part of the broader issue of the great challenges we face in our economy," said Tsongas, who coordinated the congressional letter to the IRS. "It seems appropriate for the IRS, given the great job losses . . . to give serious reconsideration to a workforce reduction."

An IRS spokeswoman said the agency would not comment.

In their letter, the congressional members noted that the IRS had expected that 80 percent of tax returns in 2007 would be filed electronically. In reality, only 59 percent of 2007's tax returns were electronic, and congressional members and leaders of the union that represent the workers say it's time for the IRS to reevaluate its plans.

"It's a very skilled and dedicated workforce, and there's absolutely no reason [for the workforce reduction] other than because they had a plan in place," said Colleen Kelley, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union. "Any business plan should have a reality check and see if it should be revisited to see if facts still exist, and they don't. Their projection never came to pass."

Union officials said about 1,400 people could face layoffs and that several hundred more employees have already left for other jobs because of the layoff threat.

John M. Guilfoil can be reached at jguilfoil@globe.com

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