TREASURY INSPECTOR GENERAL FOR TAX ADMINISTRATION

 

 

Surveys of Taxpayers With Tax Account Issues Indicate They Are Satisfied With the Service They Received at Taxpayer Assistance Centers

 

 

 

August 17, 2010

 

Reference Number:  2010-40-100

 

 

This report has cleared the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration disclosure review process and information determined to be restricted from public release has been redacted from this document.

 

Phone Number   |  202-622-6500

Email Address   |  inquiries@tigta.treas.gov

Web Site           |  http://www.tigta.gov

 

 

HIGHLIGHTS

 

Surveys of Taxpayers With Tax Account Issues Indicate They Are Satisfied With the Service They Received at Taxpayer Assistance Centers

Highlights

Final Report issued on August 17, 2010

Highlights of Reference Number:  2010-40-100 to the Internal Revenue Service Commissioner for the Wage and Investment Division.

IMPACT ON TAXPAYERS

One of the primary goals of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is to improve customer service to make voluntary compliance easier.  One method the IRS uses to provide customer service and taxpayer assistance is by providing local IRS walk-in offices, called Taxpayer Assistance Centers, which allow taxpayers to obtain assistance with tax matters.

WHY TIGTA DID THE AUDIT

Taxpayer account services are a significant part of the Taxpayer Assistance Center Program.  This audit evaluated the customer service IRS employees provided to taxpayers who visited Taxpayer Assistance Centers for tax account information.

WHAT TIGTA FOUND

Taxpayers who visited Taxpayer Assistance Centers with tax account issues were satisfied with the overall customer service they received during their visits.  They generally believed they received prompt service and that assistors who helped them were courteous, listened to their concerns, and had the knowledge to assist them properly.

A small percentage of taxpayers were dissatisfied.  These taxpayers’ experiences differed from the average Taxpayer Assistance Center visitor in that they:

  • Experienced longer wait times than average.
  • Spent more time with assistors.
  • Traveled farther to get to Taxpayer Assistance Centers.
  • Perceived a lack of genuine concern and knowledge on the part of the assistor.

Still, most taxpayers who visited Taxpayer Assistance Centers for tax account issues have little or no desire to contact the IRS using other methods, such as using a toll-free telephone service or secure Internet web sites.

Approximately 1 million taxpayers each year visit Taxpayer Assistance Centers to make payments despite there being more convenient methods.  The other methods are also less expensive for the IRS because the IRS estimates that it costs approximately $29 per Taxpayer Assistance Center contact.

Taxpayers who visit Taxpayer Assistance Centers for tax account issues have some common attributes.  Typically, they are:

·         Over the age of 50.

·         Have a lower than average income.

·         Less likely to file electronically or use a paid preparer.

WHAT TIGTA RECOMMENDED

The Commissioner, Wage and Investment Division, should identify reasons certain taxpayers prefer to make payments at Taxpayer Assistance Centers instead of using more convenient methods and take appropriate actions in an attempt to reduce the number of taxpayers who visit Taxpayer Assistance Centers to make payments.

The IRS agreed with the recommendation and plans to conduct a study to determine why taxpayers prefer to make payments at Taxpayer Assistance Centers instead of using alternative methods.  Based on the results of the study, the IRS plans to examine opportunities to influence the behavior of taxpayers and determine the feasibility of attempting to reduce the number of taxpayers who visit Taxpayer Assistance Centers to make payments.

 

August 17, 2010

 

 

MEMORANDUM FOR COMMISSIONER, WAGE AND INVESTMENT DIVISION

 

FROM:                            Michael R. Phillips /s/ Michael R. Phillips

                                         Deputy Inspector General for Audit

 

SUBJECT:                    Final Audit Report – Surveys of Taxpayers With Tax Account Issues Indicate They Are Satisfied With the Service They Received at Taxpayer Assistance Centers (Audit # 201040025)

 

This report presents the results of our review to evaluate the customer service Internal Revenue Service employees provided to taxpayers who visited Taxpayer Assistance Centers for account information.  This audit was included in our 2010 Annual Audit Plan and addresses the major management challenge of Providing Quality Taxpayer Service Operations.

Management’s complete response to the draft report is included in Appendix VII.

Copies of this report are also being sent to the Internal Revenue Service managers affected by the report recommendation.  Please contact me at (202) 622-6510 if you have questions or Michael E. McKenney, Assistant Inspector General for Audit (Returns Processing and Account Services), at (202) 622-5916.

 

 

Table of Contents

 

Background

Results of Review

Taxpayers Who Visited Taxpayer Assistance Centers With Tax Account Issues Were Satisfied With the Overall Customer Service They Received

The Internal Revenue Service Could Benefit From Determining Why Taxpayers Visit Taxpayer Assistance Centers to Make Payments

Recommendation 1:

Taxpayers Who Visit Taxpayer Assistance Centers for Tax Account Issues Have Some Common Attributes

Appendices

Appendix I – Detailed Objective, Scope, and Methodology

Appendix II – Major Contributors to This Report

Appendix III – Report Distribution List

Appendix IV – Cover Letter Sent to Taxpayers With the Questionnaire

Appendix V – Questionnaire Sent to Taxpayers

Appendix VI – Survey Results

Appendix VII – Management’s Response to the Draft Report

  

Abbreviations

 

CQRS

Centralized Quality Review System

IRS

Internal Revenue Service

TIGTA

Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

  

Background

 

One of the primary goals of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is to improve customer service to make voluntary compliance easier.  One method the IRS uses to provide customer service and taxpayer assistance is by providing local IRS walk-in offices, called Taxpayer Assistance Centers, which allow taxpayers to obtain assistance with tax matters.  Taxpayer Assistance Center employees, called assistors, help taxpayers resolve tax account inquiries, interpret tax laws and regulations, prepare certain tax returns, and provide various other services designed to minimize taxpayers’ burden when satisfying their tax obligations. 

The IRS Field Assistance Office[1] has overall responsibility for 401 Taxpayer Assistance Centers in 5 geographical areas throughout the United States.  Figure 1 shows the volume of taxpayers who visited Taxpayer Assistance Centers and the main reasons they did so for Fiscal Years 2007 through 2010.

Figure 1:  Taxpayer Assistance Center Contacts for Fiscal Years 2007–2010
(in millions)

Contacts/Product Lines

Fiscal Year
2007

Fiscal Year
2008

Fiscal Year
2009

Fiscal Year 2010[2]

Accounts Contacts

3.1

3.2

3.2

3.5

Forms Contacts

1.3

1.0

0.8

0.7

Other Contacts[3]

1.4

1.5

1.5

1.4

Tax Law Contacts

0.8

0.6

0.3

0.3

Tax Returns Prepared

0.5

0.6

0.4

0.4

Totals

7.1

6.9

6.2

6.3

Source: IRS management information reports.

The Field Assistance Office’s mission is to enhance the taxpayer experience by providing quality face-to-face assistance and facilitate self-assisted services that resolve tax issues and educate the taxpaying public.  The Field Assistance Office currently uses the IRS’ Centralized Quality Review System (CQRS) to gauge its progress in meeting its goals and to measure quality.  The Taxpayer Assistance Centers record interactions between taxpayers and assistors (with taxpayers’ permission) for quality assurance purposes using an automated Contact Recording system that records the audio portion of a customer contact and synchronizes it with an employee’s computer screen activity.

Quality reviewers review statistically valid samples of contacts to objectively evaluate customer service, analyze trends, identify opportunities for improvement, and implement quality improvement measures.  The IRS believes the results from the reviews give statistically valid information—a true picture of current quality levels. 

Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) auditors conducted a customer service survey of taxpayers

We identified 2,038 taxpayers who visited Taxpayer Assistance Centers from August 2009 to April 2010 with a tax account issue.  Of those, we sent survey questionnaires to 1,543 and received 345 responses (22.3 percent response rate). 

We designed the survey to evaluate the level of customer service taxpayers received when they visited Taxpayer Assistance Centers in an attempt to resolve their tax account issues.  Of the 345 taxpayers who responded to our survey, 322 stated that they had recently visited a Taxpayer Assistance Center with a tax account issue.

The survey included taxpayers who the IRS selected for its CQRS quality reviews.  We identified the taxpayers using the CQRS Document Collection Instrument and used the IRS’ addresses and telephone numbers of record to contact the taxpayers.  See Appendices IV and V for a copy of the cover letter and questionnaire sent to taxpayers.  See Appendix VI for the results of the survey.

This review was performed at the Field Assistance Office at the Wage and Investment Division Headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, during December 2009 through May 2010.  We conducted this performance audit in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.  Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objective.  We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objective.  Detailed information on our audit objective, scope, and methodology is presented in Appendix I.  Major contributors to the report are listed in Appendix II.

 

 

Results of Review

 

Taxpayers Who Visited Taxpayer Assistance Centers With Tax Account Issues Were Satisfied With the Overall Customer Service They Received

Taxpayers who visited Taxpayer Assistance Centers with tax account issues were satisfied with the overall customer service they received during their visits.  They generally believed they received prompt service and that assistors who helped them were courteous, listened to their concerns, and had the knowledge to assist them properly. 

Figure 2:  Overall Satisfaction[4]

Statement:  Overall, I was satisfied with the customer service I received from the IRS during my visit to the IRS walk-in office.  (316 Responses)[5]

Figure 2 was removed due to its size.  To see Figure 2, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.

 

Figure 2 shows how taxpayers who visited a Taxpayer Assistance Center responded to our survey when asked if they were satisfied with the overall customer service they received.[6]  Of 316 taxpayers who responded to this question,[7] 278 respondents (88 percent) were satisfied with the overall customer service they received.  Only 28 respondents (9 percent) were not satisfied.

In addition, as shown in Figure 3, 278 (89 percent) of 313 respondents stated they would visit the same Taxpayer Assistance Center again if they had a similar issue.

Figure 3:  Taxpayers Would Return to the Same Taxpayer Assistance Center

Statement:  If I have a similar issue in the future, I will visit the same IRS walk-in office again.  (313 Responses)[8]

Figure 3 was removed due to its size.  To see Figure 3, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.

 

IRS surveys of taxpayers who visited a Taxpayer Assistance Center for any reason[9] show similar results.  Taxpayers who participated in the IRS Customer Service Surveys during Calendar Years 2008 and 2009 rated their overall satisfaction, on average, at 4.62 on a scale from 1 to 5 (with 5 being the best possible score).  The monthly scores for the past 2 years ranged from 4.52 to 4.67.  Translating our results to the same scale, taxpayers who participated in our survey rated their overall satisfaction at 4.47 and their likelihood of returning to the same Taxpayer Assistance Center at 4.56.

Respondents believed they received prompt service and were generally satisfied with the quality of service visits

Overall, taxpayers responding to our survey were satisfied with the amount of time they spent in the Taxpayer Assistance Centers, including the amount of time they spent waiting for service (wait time) and the amount of time they spent discussing their issue with an assistor (service time).

Respondents believed they experienced reasonable wait times.

Of 313 taxpayers responding to the survey question regarding wait time,[10] 262 taxpayers (84 percent) believed their wait time was reasonable, including 203 respondents (65 percent) who strongly believed their wait time was reasonable.  As shown in Figure 4, only 42 respondents (13 percent) believed their wait time was not reasonable.

Figure 4:  Reasonable Wait Time

Statement:  The amount of time I waited in the IRS walk-in office before I received assistance with my tax account issue was reasonable. (313 Responses)[11]

Figure 4 was removed due to its size.  To see Figure 4, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.

 

Respondents believed they experienced reasonable service times.

Taxpayers who responded to our survey also believed assistors spent an appropriate amount of time with them.  Of 312 respondents to the question regarding service time,[12] 285 (91 percent) stated the IRS employee who assisted them with their tax account issue(s) spent an appropriate amount of time with them (neither too short nor too long).

As shown in Figure 5, 244 respondents (78 percent) strongly agreed the assistors spent an appropriate amount of time with them, and only 19 respondents (6 percent) disagreed.

Figure 5:  Appropriate Time With Assistor

Statement:  The IRS employee who assisted me with my tax account issue spent an appropriate amount of time with me (neither too short nor too long). (312 Responses)[13]

Figure 5 was removed due to its size.  To see Figure 5, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.

 

IRS surveys of taxpayers who visited a Taxpayer Assistance Center for any reason show results similar to our survey.  Taxpayers who participated in the IRS Customer Service Surveys over the past 2 calendar years rated the IRS’ promptness of service at 4.38.  The monthly scores for the past 2 years range from 4.19 to 4.48.  Translating our results to the same scale, taxpayers who participated in our survey rated their satisfaction with their wait time at 4.27 and their satisfaction with their service time at 4.61.

In addition, taxpayers were also satisfied with the ease with which they found the IRS walk-in offices, the ease with which they were able to determine what they needed to do to receive assistance once they arrived, and the atmosphere in the offices that provided a private contact with an IRS assistor.  See Appendix VI for detailed results.

Respondents believed Taxpayer Assistance Center employees were knowledgeable, professional, and courteous

Respondents were very satisfied with the quality of service they received from the Taxpayer Assistance Center assistors.  As shown in Figure 6, taxpayers overwhelmingly agreed that assistors showed a genuine concern for them and their problems, had the knowledge to assist them, and spent an appropriate amount of time with them.

Figure 6:  Assistors’ Quality of Service

The IRS employee who assisted me with my tax account issue …

Strongly Agree

Somewhat Agree

Neither Agree or Disagree

Somewhat Disagree

Strongly  Disagree

… showed a genuine concern for me and my issue when trying to assist me.  (Question 13)

233

42

6

8

22

… had adequate knowledge to assist me with my issue.  (Question 14)

236

39

13

6

20

… spent an appropriate amount of time with me (neither too short nor too long).  (Question 15)

244

41

8

10

9

Source:  TIGTA survey results.

 

These results are comparable to the results of similar questions on the IRS Customer Satisfaction Survey.  For the three questions above, our respondents rated their experiences, on average, at 4.47 (Question 13), 4.48 (Question 14), and 4.61 (Question 15), whereas the IRS results showed a customer rating of 4.73 for courtesy and professionalism and 4.72 for knowledge.

In addition to the survey, we reviewed contact recordings for 25 contacts to determine if our assessment of the contact was similar to the respondents’ assessments.  Our review verified that assistors were concerned with taxpayer issues, had the knowledge to assist taxpayers, and spent an appropriate amount of time with them.

Respondents who were not satisfied with the customer service they received were in the Taxpayer Assistance Centers longer and traveled farther to get there

While most survey respondents were satisfied with the customer service they received, a small percentage of them were dissatisfied.  Respondents who were not satisfied with the customer service they received at Taxpayer Assistance Centers reported they:

  • Experienced longer wait times than average.
  • Spent more time with assistors than average.
  • Traveled farther to get to the Taxpayer Assistance Centers than average.
  • Perceived a lack of genuine concern and knowledge on the part of the assistor.

Our survey did not allow us to identify a cause for this trend, nor did we identify any commonalities in these visits other than those subsequently discussed.

The amount of time a respondent had to wait to receive assistance appears to be a factor in determining his or her overall satisfaction with the Taxpayer Assistance Center experience.  Survey respondents reported an average wait time of 27.59 minutes; however, as shown in Figure 7, dissatisfied respondents reported an average wait time of almost 70 minutes. 

Figure 7:  Average Wait Time for Respondents by Level of Satisfaction[14]

Statement:  Overall, I was satisfied with the customer service I received from the IRS
during my visit to the IRS walk-in office. (254 Responses)

Figure 7 was removed due to its size.  To see Figure 7, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.

 

Respondents also reported that they spent more time with assistors when they tried to resolve their tax issue.  The average taxpayer reported spending approximately 18 minutes with an assistor when trying to resolve his or her tax account issue; however, respondents who were dissatisfied reported they spent, on average, more than 32 minutes with assistors.  See Figure 8 for the average reported time respondents spent with assistors by level of satisfaction.

Figure 8:  Average Time Respondents Spent With Assistors
by Level of Satisfaction
[15]

Statement:  Overall, I was satisfied with the customer service I received from the IRS
during my visit to the IRS walk-in office. (251 Responses)

Figure 8 was removed due to its size.  To see Figure 8, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.

 

In addition, respondents who were dissatisfied with the customer service they received may have traveled farther than the average respondent did.  The average distance to a Taxpayer Assistance Center for respondents satisfied with customer service was reported to be approximately 14 miles.  The average reported distance for respondents dissatisfied was more than 25.6 miles.  See Figure 9 for the distance respondents traveled to visit a Taxpayer Assistance Center.

Figure 9:  Average Distance for Respondents by Level of Satisfaction[16]

Statement:  Overall, I was satisfied with the customer service I received from the IRS
during my visit to the IRS walk-in office. (249 Responses)

Figure 9 was removed due to its size.  To see Figure 9, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.

 

In addition, more than 60 percent of taxpayers who responded that they were dissatisfied with the customer service they received did not believe assistors were genuinely concerned with their issue and did not have the knowledge to assist them.

Respondents who visited Taxpayer Assistance Centers do not wish to use alternative methods to resolve their tax account issues

According to the 2008 and 2009 IRS Oversight Board Reports, more taxpayers consider a toll-free telephone number or secure Internet site more important in helping them resolve their tax issues than Taxpayer Assistance Centers.  However, the results of our survey show that taxpayers who visit Taxpayer Assistance Centers for tax account issues have little or no desire to contact the IRS using other methods.

A total of 143 respondents stated that their Taxpayer Assistance Center visit was not their first attempt to resolve their tax account issue.  Most respondents were aware of other IRS services (79 percent), but many preferred to try to resolve their tax account issue in person.  See Figure 10 for taxpayer preferences based on our survey results. 

Figure 10:  Taxpayer Service Preferences[17]

Question

Strongly Agree

Somewhat Agree

Neither Agree or Disagree

Somewhat Disagree

Strongly  Disagree

Before visiting the IRS walk-in office, I was aware of other services the IRS provides (e.g.:  telephone or Internet services) that could help me resolve my tax issues.

183

56

25

12

28

Compared to visiting the IRS walk-in office, I would rather, if possible, try to resolve my tax account issues via a toll-free telephone call.

55

33

47

33

139

Compared to visiting the IRS walk-in office, I would rather, if possible, try to resolve my tax account issues via a secure Internet site.

42

40

42

36

146

Source:  TIGTA survey results.

 

As shown in Figure 10, despite generally being aware of other options, more than 56 percent of respondents indicated they would prefer not to try to solve their tax account issues via a toll-free telephone call and 59 percent indicated they would prefer not to try to solve their tax account issues via a secure Internet site.  Instead, they would rather visit the Taxpayer Assistance Center to try to resolve their issueseven if their issue is to make only a payment.

The Internal Revenue Service Could Benefit From Determining Why Taxpayers Visit Taxpayer Assistance Centers to Make Payments

Approximately 30 percent of taxpayers who responded to the survey visited Taxpayer Assistance Centers to make payments.  The IRS reports that approximately 1 million taxpayers each year visit the Taxpayer Assistance Centers to make payments.  Yet the IRS provides taxpayers with more convenient methods to make payments, such as through its Electronic Federal Tax Payment System,[18] by credit card, or by mailing payments to the IRS.  Using one of these methods may be more convenient for taxpayers, but may also be less expensive for both the taxpayer and the IRS.  The IRS estimates that it costs approximately $29 per Taxpayer Assistance Center contact.[19]

There are various reasons why taxpayers choose to make payments at a Taxpayer Assistance Center.  For example, they may not have a bank account and need to make payments in cash, or they may want a receipt showing they made a payment.

In November 2009, the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel issued a report[20] on how to improve the payment process in the Taxpayer Assistance Centers.[21]  The report made a number of recommendations, including changing forms and adding drop boxes.  The report did not address the reasons taxpayers visit Taxpayer Assistance Centers to make payments. 

The IRS could benefit from identifying the reasons a large number of taxpayers regularly visit Taxpayer Assistance Centers to make payments and alternative ways to educate and encourage them to use payment methods other than in-person delivery.  This would reduce repeat traffic, wait time, and payment processing costs and time.  It would also give assistors additional time to assist taxpayers with more complex issues.

Recommendation

Recommendation 1:  The Commissioner, Wage and Investment Division, should identify reasons certain taxpayers prefer to make payments at Taxpayer Assistance Centers instead of using more convenient methods and take appropriate actions in an attempt to reduce the number of taxpayers who visit Taxpayer Assistance Centers to make payments.

Management’s Response:  The IRS agreed with the recommendation and will conduct a study to determine why taxpayers prefer to make payments at Taxpayer Assistance Centers instead of using alternative methods.  Based on the results of the study, the IRS will examine opportunities to influence the behavior of taxpayers and determine the feasibility of attempting to reduce the number of taxpayers who visit Taxpayer Assistance Centers to make payments.

Taxpayers Who Visit Taxpayer Assistance Centers for Tax Account Issues Have Some Common Attributes

The typical taxpayer who visits a Taxpayer Assistance Center for tax account issues is 51.5 years old, files his or her tax return as Single or Head of Household, and earns $34,106 per year.[22]  He or she is far less likely to electronically file a tax return than the average taxpayer (54 percent versus 67 percent of all taxpayers) and less likely to use a paid preparer than the average taxpayer (45 percent versus 60 percent for all taxpayers).

Typically, taxpayers who visit Taxpayer Assistance Centers for account issues do so to make a payment, get general information about their account, or get information regarding notices received.  They travel anywhere from 0 to 135 miles (averaging 15 miles) to get to the Taxpayer Assistance Centers and have an average wait time of 28 minutes before receiving assistance.

Most taxpayers visiting Taxpayer Assistance Centers for tax account issues are over the age of 50.

Taxpayers who visit Taxpayer Assistance Centers for tax account issues are most likely to be at least 50 years old, and more than 45 percent of all taxpayers who visit Taxpayer Assistance Centers with a tax account issue fall between the ages of 50 and 69.  Figure 11 shows the ages of respondents who visited Taxpayer Assistance Centers for tax account issues.

Figure 11:  Ages of Taxpayers Who Visited Taxpayer Assistance Centers
for Tax Account Issues and Their Customer Service Level

Figure 11 was removed due to its size.  To see Figure 11, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.[23]

 

Survey responses indicate that taxpayers age of 50 or older who visited Taxpayer Assistance Centers for tax account issues were typically aware of alternative methods with which they may be able to handle their tax account issues, but prefer to handle them at Taxpayer Assistance Centers.  In general, these taxpayers were just as satisfied with the service they received at Taxpayer Assistance Centers as younger taxpayers.  In fact, no particular age group showed a significant difference in satisfaction levels.

Taxpayers visiting Taxpayer Assistance Centers for tax account issues typically have a lower income than the national median income.

The median total income of a respondent was approximately $34,100.  The national median household income in the United States is approximately $52,000.[24]  However, more than one-half of the respondents had a household income of less than $40,000, and only 33 percent of taxpayers visiting Taxpayer Assistance Centers had an income equal to or higher than the national median income.  Figure 12 shows the wages of respondents who visited Taxpayer Assistance Centers for tax account issues.

Figure 12:  Wages of Taxpayers Who Visited Taxpayer Assistance
Centers for Tax Account Issues and Their Customer Service Level

Figure 12 was removed due to its size.  To see Figure 12, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.

 

Despite the vast difference in household income for taxpayers who visited Taxpayer Assistance Centers with a tax account issue, there was little difference in how customer service at the Taxpayer Assistance Centers was perceived.  Respondents of all income levels were satisfied with the customer service they received.

Similarly, taxpayers’ filing statuses did not affect their customer satisfaction.  There were no significant differences in taxpayers’ satisfaction with the Taxpayer Assistance Centers based on filing status.  Figure 13 shows the filing status of taxpayers who visited Taxpayer Assistance Centers for tax account issues.

Figure 13:  Filing Status of Taxpayers Who Visited Taxpayer Assistance Centers
for Tax Account Issues and Their Customer Service Level

Figure 13 was removed due to its size.  To see Figure 13, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.

 

Our survey also determined taxpayers who visit Taxpayer Assistance Centers with tax account issues were less likely to file electronic returns or use a paid preparer.  They are more inclined to file a paper return (54 percent) than the national average (33 percent) and were more inclined to prepare the return without using a paid preparer (55 percent) than the national average (40 percent).  Figures 14 and 15 show the percentage of respondents who visited a Taxpayer Assistance Center for tax account issues who filed electronically and used a preparer.

Figure 14:  Electronic and Paper Filing by Taxpayers Who Visit
Taxpayer Assistance Centers for Tax Account Issues

 

Figure 14 was removed due to its size.  To see Figure 14, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.

 

Figure 15:  Use of Paid Preparers by Taxpayers Who Visit
Taxpayer Assistance Centers for Tax Account Issues

Figure 15 was removed due to its size.  To see Figure 15, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.

 

Appendix I

 

Detailed Objective, Scope, and Methodology

 

Our overall objective was to evaluate the customer service IRS employees provided to taxpayers who visited Taxpayer Assistance Centers for account information.  To accomplish this objective, we:

I.                    Identified the trends associated with customer satisfaction levels and customer needs. 

A.     Reviewed taxpayer surveys and results completed by the external stakeholders.

B.     Reviewed the Field Assistance Office[25] customer satisfaction survey results.

C.     Evaluated how the Field Assistance Office has used survey results to improve the quality of service provided in the centers.

II.                 Evaluated the satisfaction of customers who visited Taxpayer Assistance Centers by conducting a survey of taxpayers during the period January through April 2010.

A.     Identified 2,038 taxpayers who visited Taxpayer Assistance Centers from August 2009 to April 2010 with a tax account issue.  We sent survey questionnaires to the 1,543 with a valid address on the Individual Master File.[26]  We obtained 345 survey responses.  We identified the taxpayers by completing the following:    

1.     Identified taxpayers who visited a Taxpayer Assistance Center for assistance with an account issue from August 10, 2009, to January 29, 2010, by obtaining the CQRS Data Collection Instrument used by reviewers to document their review of the contact recording.

2.     On a periodic basis from January 29 to April 2, 2010, identified taxpayers who visited a Taxpayer Assistance Center for assistance with an account issue beginning with the first week after the 6-month period in II.A.1. by obtaining CQRS Data Collection Instrument updates.

3.     For taxpayers identified in II.A.1. and II.A.2., researched IRS’ Individual Master File Return Transaction File[27] and identified 1,543 taxpayers’ entity information, including name, address, and demographic information (e.g., income, filing status).

4.     Mailed 1,543 cover letters and surveys to taxpayers.  Taxpayers responded to the survey via Internet (19 taxpayers), mail (214 taxpayers), or telephone (112 taxpayers).

5.     Obtained all available contact recordings from February 24 to April 9, 2010.

6.     For 25 contacts in which the taxpayer responded to our survey, we reviewed contact recordings from II.A.5. and determined if taxpayer responses are representative of actual events.

B.     Evaluated taxpayers’ experiences when visiting a Taxpayer Assistance Center for assistance with an account issue.

1.      Quantified the results after the completion of the 345 surveys.

2.      Stratified and compared data by various categories.

3.      Obtained demographic information for respondents from the Individual Master File Return Transaction File and stratified results by age, filing status, income level, and geographical areas.

Internal controls methodology

Internal controls relate to management’s plans, methods, and procedures used to meet their mission, goals, and objectives.  Internal controls include the processes and procedures for planning, organizing, directing, and controlling program operations.  They include the systems for measuring, reporting, and monitoring program performance.  This audit did not include reviewing any IRS processes or procedures, but focused on taxpayers.  We only considered internal controls if taxpayers’ responses to surveys identified any potential concerns or fraudulent activities; they did not.

 

Appendix II

 

Major Contributors to This Report

 

Michael E. McKenney, Assistant Inspector General for Audit (Returns Processing and Account Services)

Augusta R. Cook, Director

Wilma Figueroa, Audit Manager

Frank Jones, Audit Manager

Kenneth Carlson, Lead Auditor

Tanya Adams, Senior Auditor

Roberta Fuller, Senior Auditor

Jerome Antoine, Auditor

Jack Forbus, Auditor

Andrea Hayes, Auditor

Nelva Usher, Auditor

Geraldine Vaughn, Auditor

 

Appendix III

 

Report Distribution List

 

Commissioner  C

Office of the Commissioner – Attn:  Chief of Staff  C

Deputy Commissioner for Operations Support  OS

Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement  SE

Deputy Chief Information Officer for Strategy/Modernization  OS:CTO

Deputy Commissioner, Wage and Investment Division  SE:W

Director, Compliance, Wage and Investment Division  SE:W:CP

Director, Customer Assistance, Relationships, and Education, Wage and Investment Division  SE:W:CAR

Chief, Program Evaluation and Improvement, Wage and Investment Division  SE:W:S:PRA:PEI

Chief Counsel  CC

National Taxpayer Advocate  TA

Director, Office of Legislative Affairs  CL:LA

Director, Office of Program Evaluation and Risk Analysis  RAS:O

Office of Internal Control  OS:CFO:CPIC:IC

Audit Liaison:  Chief, Program Evaluation and Improvement, Wage and Investment Division  SE:W:S:PRA:PEI

 

Appendix IV

 

Cover Letter Sent to Taxpayers With the Questionnaire

 

The picture of the Cover Letter was removed due to its size.  To see the Cover Letter, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.

 

Appendix V

 

Questionnaire Sent to Taxpayers

 

The picture of the Questionnaire was removed due to its size.  To see the Questionnaire, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.

 

Appendix VI

 

Survey Results

 

We obtained the following selected results from our survey of taxpayers who visited Taxpayer Assistance Centers with tax account issues.[28]

The charts in this Appendix are designed to show positive and negative responses to each question, with positive responses shown to the right of the center line and negative or neutral responses shown to the left of the center line.

The score for each question and the total number of taxpayers who responded to the question (N) is to the right of the question.  For example, for question 8, taxpayers scored the IRS’ customer service for this category as 4.25 and 317 taxpayers responded to the question.

The picture was removed due to its size.  To see the picture, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.

 

Questions 8 through 21 gave taxpayers the following options when presented with statements regarding the IRS’ customer service.

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General Statements

Questions 8 through 12 asked taxpayers to rate general customer service issues they encountered during their visit to a Taxpayer Assistance Center with a tax account issue.

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The picture was removed due to its size.  To see the picture, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.

 

The picture was removed due to its size.  To see the picture, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.

 

The picture was removed due to its size.  To see the picture, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.

 

The picture was removed due to its size.  To see the picture, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.

 

Assistors

Questions 13, 14, and 15 asked taxpayers to rate their satisfaction with the courtesy, knowledge, and professionalism of Taxpayer Assistance Center assistors.

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The picture was removed due to its size.  To see the picture, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.

 

The picture was removed due to its size.  To see the picture, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.

 

Survey Cards

Question 16 asked taxpayers to rate how easy it was to return Customer Service Survey cards given to them at the Taxpayer Assistance Centers.

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Other Services Provided by the Internal Revenue Service

Questions 17, 18, and 19 asked taxpayers to rate their knowledge of other IRS services and their likelihood to use them in the future.

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The picture was removed due to its size.  To see the picture, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.

 

The picture was removed due to its size.  To see the picture, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.

 

Overall Satisfaction With Customer Service

Questions 20 and 21 asked taxpayers to rate their overall satisfaction with the customer service they received when visiting a Taxpayer Assistance Center with a tax account issue.

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The picture was removed due to its size.  To see the picture, please go to the Adobe PDF version of the report on the TIGTA Public Web Page.

 

Appendix VII

 

Management’s Response to the Draft Report

 

 

DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY

INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE

ATLANTA, GA 30308

 

COMMISSIONER

WAGE AND INVESTMENT DIVISION

 

JULY 28, 2010

 

 

MEMORANDUM FOR MICHAEL R. PHILLIPS

    DEPUTY INSPECTOR GENERAL FOR AUDIT

 

FROM:                        for Richard Byrd Jr. /s/ Peggy Bogadi

      Commissioner, Wage and Investment Division

 

SUBJECT”                       Draft Audit Report - Surveys of Taxpayers With Tax Account Issues Indicate They Are Satisfied With the Service They Received at Taxpayer Assistance Centers (Audit # 201040025)

 

We have reviewed the subject draft report and agree with your findings and recommendation. Your report underscores the strong commitment of our employees in the Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) to provide professional and courteous service to over six million taxpayers each year. As your report indicates, most taxpayers are satisfied with the service that they receive in the TACs, which is similar to the results of the Customer Satisfaction Survey.

 

Your report references a large number of taxpayers that visit TACs for account issues and to make payments. However, as stated in your report, taxpayers were typically aware of alternative methods in which they could handle their tax account issues, but prefer to handle payments at the TACs. Converting the behavior of these taxpayers will be a significant challenge.

 

Our specific comments to your recommendation are attached. If you have any questions, please contact me, or a member of your staff may contact Leslye Baronich, Director, Field Assistance, Wage and Investment Division, at (404) 338-7141.

 

Attachment

 

Attachment

 

RECOMMENDATION 1

The Commissioner, Wage and Investment Division, should identify reasons certain taxpayers prefer to make payments at Taxpayer Assistance Centers instead of using more convenient methods and take appropriate actions in an attempt to reduce the number of taxpayers who visit Taxpayer Assistance Centers to make payments.

 

CORRECTIVE ACTION

We agree with this recommendation. A study will be conducted by the Research Office in the Wage and Investment Division to determine why taxpayers prefer to make payments at the Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) instead of using alternative methods available. Based on the results of the study, Field Assistance will examine opportunities to impact the behavior of taxpayers and determine the feasibility of attempting to reduce the number of taxpayers that visit TACs to make payments.

 

IMPLEMENTATION DATE

The study results are expected to be completed by December 15, 2011.

 

RESPONSIBLE OFFICIAL

Director, Field Assistance, Wage and Investment Division

 

CORRECTIVE ACTION MONITORING PLAN

The IRS will monitor this corrective action as part of our internal management


[1] The Field Assistance Office is within the Wage and Investment Division Customer Assistance, Relationships, and Education function.

[2] Fiscal Year 2010 contacts are Field Assistance Office’s projections.

[3] Examples of “Other Contacts” include assisting taxpayers with the U.S. Departing Alien Income Tax Statement (Form 2063), date stamping tax returns brought in by taxpayers, and helping taxpayers with general information such as addresses and directions to other IRS offices or other Federal Government agencies.

[4] Due to rounding, the percentages in the legend of this and other figures may not total 100 percent.

[5] For 316 responses, at a 95 percent confidence level, the precision for a 50 percent error rate would be 5.5 percent.  The actual precision for individual response categories would be lower.

[6] These results come from Question 21 of the questionnaire.  See Appendix VI for details.

[7] Not all respondents answered all survey questions.

[8] For 313 responses, at a 95 percent confidence level, the precision for a 50 percent error rate would be 5.5 percent.  The actual precision for individual response categories would be lower.

[9] Common reasons a taxpayer may visit an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center include:  to resolve tax account issues, to ask tax law questions, or to obtain forms and publications.

[10] These results are from Question 11 of the questionnaire.  See Appendix VI for details.

[11] For 313 responses, at a 95 percent confidence level, the precision for a 50 percent error rate would be 5.5 percent.  The actual precision for individual response categories would be lower.

[12] These results come from Question 15 of the questionnaire.  See Appendix VI for details.

[13] For 312 responses, at a 95 percent confidence level, the precision for a 50 percent error rate would be 5.5 percent.  The actual precision for individual response categories would be lower.

[14] Testing showed statistical significance at the .01 level of significance (p-value = .0009).

[15] Testing showed statistical significance at the .05 level of significance (p-value = .0208).

[16] Testing showed statistical significance at the .10 level of significance (p-value = .0995).

[17] Responses that indicated the taxpayer did not remember or did not feel the question was applicable to their visit are not included in this table.

[18] The Electronic Federal Tax Payment System is a tax payment system provided free by the Department of the Treasury.  Businesses and individuals can pay all their Federal taxes using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System.  Both businesses and individuals can schedule payments in advance.  

[19] The 2007 Taxpayer Assistance Blueprint – Phase 2 (dated April 2007).

[20] The Taxpayer Assistance Center Committee Report on Improving the Payment Process in the TACs (dated November 2009).

[21] The Taxpayer Advocacy Panel was established in October 2002 under the Federal Advisory Committee Act as a way of improving IRS responsiveness to taxpayers needs.  The panel offers a unique opportunity for citizens to participate in the improvement of both the American tax administration system and the organization of the IRS.

[22] The average income is $50,383.

[23] The Individual Return Transaction File contains data transcribed from U.S. Individual Income Tax Returns (Forms 1040, 1040A, and 1040EZ) and accompanying forms and schedules.

[24] Based on 2008 Income Statistics from the United States Census Bureau.

[25] The Field Assistance Office is within the Wage and Investment Division Customer Assistance, Relationships, and Education function.

[26] The IRS database that maintains transactions or records of individual tax accounts.

[27] The Individual Return Transaction File contains data transcribed from U.S. Individual Income Tax Returns (Forms 1040, 1040A, and 1040EZ) and accompanying forms and schedules.

[28] Questions asked for verification or demographic purposes are not included in this Appendix.