TREASURY INSPECTOR GENERAL
FOR TAX ADMINISTRATION
The Internal Revenue Service Faces the Challenge of Increased Demands for Tax Return Preparation Assistance in the Future
Reference No. 2001-40-003
The overall mission of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is to provide Americaís taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and by applying the tax law with integrity and fairness to all. As part of this overall mission, the IRS wanted to provide world-class customer service to taxpayers who visited IRS offices during the 2000 Filing Season for return preparation assistance. During the 2000 Filing Season, IRS employees prepared tax returns for over 800,000 taxpayers who visited an IRS office. The number of tax returns prepared for taxpayers has been increasing significantly every year, and the number of taxpayers who asked for assistance this year is at a high level.
This audit report presents our evaluation of the tax return preparation service offered to taxpayers during the 2000 Filing Season. The overall objective of this review was to determine whether the IRS offered timely, quality service to taxpayers who visited a Walk-In office for tax return preparation assistance. We had previously evaluated the IRSí efforts to prepare for walk-in assistance for the 2000 Filing Season and determined that return preparation was an area with high risk because a formal quality review system had not been established.
The IRS implemented a successful Tax Return Preparation Program during the 2000 Filing Season. During this review, we determined that Walk-In offices provided timely, quality service to more taxpayers than ever who visited IRS offices for return preparation assistance. However, the IRS had to deal with the problem of some Districts not preparing wait-time statistical reports.
The Publicís Demand for Tax Return Preparation Service Has Increased Dramatically During the Past 2 Years
The IRS has over 400 offices nationwide that taxpayers can visit to receive assistance with preparing tax returns. The number of taxpayers who used the tax return preparation service has increased significantly during the past 2 years. Some offices were straining to provide timely service this year because of limitations of computer equipment, office space, and employees. Because of huge increases in taxpayer demand and IRS resource limitations, the IRS should develop a strategy to determine the type and range of services to offer taxpayers next year during the 2001 Filing Season.
Wait-Time Statistics Were Not Compiled by Seven Districts
Providing timely service to taxpayers who visit offices for tax return preparation assistance is critical to a successful customer service Walk-In Program. The IRS has established a wait-time goal of 30 minutes for taxpayers who need a return prepared. To monitor wait-time on a nationwide basis, the IRS National Headquarters asked District Offices to report monthly on the achievement of wait-time goals. Seven Districts in one Region did not compile wait-time statistics during January and February 2000.
Summary of Recommendations
To improve tax return preparation assistance offered to taxpayers who visit Walk-In offices, we recommend that the IRS implement the following recommendations: develop a strategy to determine the type of tax return preparation assistance to offer taxpayers next filing season because of the significant increase in demand and follow up when District Offices do not compile wait-time statistics.
Managementís Response: IRS management agreed with our recommendations and has initiated corrective actions. Managementís complete response to the draft report is included as Appendix IV.