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IRS Oversight Board Releases Special Report on Taxpayer Customer Service;Survey Shows Taxpayers’ Needs and Preferences in Meeting Tax Obligations

The IRS Oversight Board Taxpayer Customer Service and Channel Preference Survey was released today. The report, based upon a survey commissioned by the Oversight Board and conducted earlier this year by Roper Public Affairs, was designed to gain a better understanding of the needs, expectations, and preferences taxpayers have for IRS assistance in meeting their tax obligations.

“The IRS Channel Study builds upon the existing body of information and provides us with a more comprehensive and insightful view of IRS customer service. We now have a better understanding of which taxpayers are using which customer service options and why. The study’s findings should help the IRS to allocate and focus its customer service resources. Beyond the obvious efficiency gains, providing the services needed or expected by taxpayers can boost compliance and help shrink the tax gap,” said Board Chairman Paul Jones.

The survey revealed that within the last two years, 41 percent of U.S. taxpayer households have contacted the IRS. Twenty-two percent of the taxpayer households indicated that they had telephoned the IRS; three percent said they had visited an IRS office in-person; 25 percent said they had visited the IRS website; four percent said they had sent the IRS an e-mail; and six percent said they had sent the IRS a letter in the mail.

Most taxpayers contacted the IRS for help with tax law questions, requesting forms and publications, preparing a tax return, and addressing a tax dispute or error.

In terms of potential demand for IRS customer service, nearly two-thirds of the taxpayers were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to contact IRS for assistance if they needed help with tax law questions or to obtain forms. Around 50 percent indicated they would contact IRS for help in preparing a return. Currently, only around 40 percent of taxpayers contact the IRS for assistance, some of whom in response to prior interactions with the IRS. This disparity suggests that there could be a difference between the level of service taxpayers prefer and the level of support they currently receive from the IRS.

The data also revealed a large diversity of taxpayers who contact the IRS, including virtually all ages, income levels and life circumstances. A statistical market segmentation analysis of the survey data further distilled the U.S. taxpayer population down to six distinct groups, each with its own unique traits and customer service needs. These segments can serve as a basis to help the IRS develop targeted strategies and products for them, thereby increasing both efficiency and effectiveness. The report highlights opportunities for the IRS to meet specific needs within each taxpayer segment, such as providing enhanced pre-filing customer assistance to help some taxpayers avoid post-filing compliance problems.

“This survey dramatically illustrates that ‘one size does not fit all’ when it comes to IRS customer service,” said Chairman Jones. “It is clear that each distinct taxpayer group is in need of IRS customer service, but all would benefit from tailored strategies given the substantially different challenges and opportunities each represents. This report underscores opportunities before the IRS to help close the tax gap through improved customer service.”

The full report pdf icon can be downloaded from the IRS Oversight Board web site at www.irsoversightboard.treas.gov. For further questions, please contact the Board at 202-622-2581.