The IRS answered less than 40 percent of taxpayer calls routed to customer service representatives during the tax filing season, down from 71 percent in 2014
They said that Internal Revenue Service customer service would suffer this year. They said that due to budget cuts and reduced staff, wait times for processing and helpline accessibility would increase. They were right.
The IRS answered less than 40 percent of taxpayer calls routed to customer service representatives between the first of the year and April 18, tax deadline day, and the hold time for those who did get through averaged 23 minutes. This was a steep decline from 2014, when the IRS answered 71 percent of its calls and hold times averaged roughly 14 minutes. “For the segment of taxpayers who required help from the IRS, the filing season was by far the worst in memory,” according to a new Congressional report released by the National Taxpayer advocate.
Sharp declines in taxpayer service were inevitable,” the report states, attributing the decline in part to a 17 percent funding cut since fiscal year 2010, which hampered the IRS’ ability to handle more than 100 million telephone calls, ten million letters and more than five million taxpayers who visit IRS walk-in sites.
Other customer service fails:
- The number of phone calls disconnected due to system overload surged to approximately 8.8 million, up from roughly 555,000 last year.
- During three consecutive weeks of the filing season, the IRS answered less than 10 percent of calls from taxpayers notified that their tax returns had been blocked on suspicion of identity theft.
- Libraries and U.S. Postal Service branches did not receive IRS paper forms and publications until Feb. 28, and once those supplies were exhausted, no more were available.
The report expressed deep concern about “the magnitude of taxpayer-service shortcomings,” and stated, “While we understand that limited resources have played a significant role, the impact on taxpayers requiring assistance has been profound. The IRS took a big step last year in adopting a Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Among those rights is the right to quality service. Whatever the cause, there remains a vast gulf between the goal of providing high-quality taxpayer service and the current state of taxpayer service.”
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.