TREASURY INSPECTOR GENERAL
FOR TAX ADMINISTRATION
THE INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE NEEDS TO STRENGTHEN GUIDELINES FOR MEASURING THE QUALITY AND TIMELINESS OF THE WALK-IN ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
Reference No. 2000-40-065
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 wants to provide world-class customer service to taxpayers who visit IRS offices during the upcoming filing season. During the 1999 filing season, IRS employees assisted over six million taxpayers who came in to ask a question, get a tax form, or have their tax return prepared. In addition, numerous other taxpayers came in to get tax forms off the self-service racks.
This audit report presents our evaluation of the IRSí readiness efforts to prepare the Walk-In Assistance Program for the 2000 filing season. The overall objective of this review was to determine whether the readiness process for the 2000 filing season will ensure that taxpayers who walk into an IRS office receive quality customer service and accurate, timely responses to their tax-related questions. To accomplish this overall objective, we evaluated the processes for: anticipating the number of taxpayers who will visit IRS offices and the services they will need, staffing walk-in assistance with trained personnel, setting up enough offices with the proper facilities to service taxpayers, and measuring the quality and timeliness of services provided by the Walk-In Assistance Program.
The IRS has a fundamentally sound approach to planning walk-in assistance for the 2000 filing season. The process covers: anticipating the number of taxpayers who will visit IRS offices and the services that they will need, staffing walk-in assistance with trained personnel, and setting up enough offices with the proper facilities to service taxpayers. However, the IRS needs to strengthen current guidelines for measuring the quality and timeliness of services provided by the Walk-In Assistance Program.
The Internal Revenue Service Has Not Established Acceptability Standards to Evaluate the Time Taxpayers Wait for Walk-In Assistance
Operating Guidelines for Fiscal Year 2000 have established wait-time goals for assisting individual taxpayers: 15 minutes for taxpayers who come into the office to ask a tax question or get a tax form and 30 minutes for taxpayers who need a return prepared. However, acceptability standards (the percentage of taxpayers to be serviced within the 15-minute and 30-minute goals) have not been set to identify offices that are not providing timely service or to measure the overall success of the Walk-In Assistance Program.
Internal Revenue Service Walk-In Assistance Offices Do Not Compute Wait-Time Consistently
All taxpayers who visit IRS offices and need assistance getting forms should be included in the computation of wait-time. Some offices correctly include these taxpayers in their wait-time computations. However, numerous offices do not record the actual length of time these taxpayers wait in line. Instead, all taxpayers are counted as being served timely in the wait-time computation regardless of how long the taxpayers were in line.
The National Office Does Not Adequately Monitor the Walk-In Assistance Program
Because of limited resources, the IRS National Office does not adequately monitor the implementation of the Walk-In Assistance Program. However, regional offices conduct independent reviews of Walk-In Assistance Programs in district offices, both during the readiness process and the filing season. We believe it would be beneficial for the regional offices to furnish the National Office the results of their reviews to help identify and correct trends or potential problems.
The Internal Revenue Service Has Not Developed Quality Measurements for the Tax Return Preparation Program to Comply With the New Balanced Measurements
The IRS has adopted a system of balanced measures that includes three general types of measurements: customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and business results (quality and quantity). However, the current quality reviews of tax returns prepared by walk-in assistors are done on an ad hoc basis and do not meet the requirements of the recently issued balanced measurement regulation.
Summary of Recommendations
To improve the Walk-In Assistance Program readiness process for the 2000 filing season, we recommended that the IRS:
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.