The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is currently relying on 60-year-old technology to process tax returns. This outdated technology has contributed to many of the agency’s problems, including staffing shortages, unprocessed returns, and security risks. It’s time for the IRS to retire this technology and upgrade to modern systems.

The IRS has been plagued by staffing shortages and high call volume in recent years, leading to long wait times for taxpayers. Additionally, the agency has struggled to keep up with the backlog of unprocessed returns. While the IRS has made some improvements, such as hiring more workers and reducing the backlog, the agency’s outdated technology remains a significant challenge.

A recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) highlights the dire state of the IRS’s IT systems. The agency’s applications and hardware are outdated, and some of the software it uses is up to 15 versions behind the current one. This poses security risks, unmet mission needs, staffing issues, and increased costs.

One of the key problems is the “Individual Master File,” which has been in use since 1970. This file collects and stores taxpayer information, but it was built with antiquated programming languages COBOL and Assembly. The IRS updated some of the code last year, but COBOL remains in use. Until the master file is fully modernized, it will remain a challenge to get real-time information on refunds and processing status to taxpayers, as well as ensuring the latest safety and fraud precautions. The IRS is targeting to replace the master file by 2030, but the GAO warns that it’s unlikely to meet that deadline.

This is unacceptable. The IRS was given almost $80 billion by the Inflation Reduction Act last year to improve its operations, including its IT systems and staffing. While half of this funding is for more auditors to pursue corporate and high-earning tax cheats, about $30 billion is for upgrading basic services, including IT and staffing. House Republicans are attempting to strip away this funding, but lawmakers in both parties should press for faster results.

The tax filing season is underway, and there have already been problems. The IRS told people to wait to file their returns if they lived in about 22 states that sent out some type of inflation relief payment last year because the IRS was deliberating on whether these payments count as income on federal tax returns. This is a valid issue, but one the IRS should have resolved before tax season began.

While it might be tempting to put IT upgrades on the back burner, upgrading the IRS’s technology is a much-needed step forward into the 21st century. It’s time for the agency to retire its outdated systems and modernize its IT infrastructure to better serve taxpayers.