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Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

Press Release


September 22, 2011
TIGTA - 2011-59
Contact: Karen Kraushaar
(202) 622-6500
karen.kraushaar@tigta.treas.gov
TIGTACommunications@tigta.treas.gov

IRS Exceeds its Performance Goals on its Toll-Free Telephone Assistance Lines, TIGTA Finds

Increased Call Demand and Limited Resources Continue to Pose a Challenge

WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) exceeded its overall toll-free telephone assistance performance measurement goals for the 2011 Filing Season, achieving a level of service to taxpayers who called for assistance that was better than it anticipated, according to a new report publicly released today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

However, increased call demand and limited resources continue to adversely affect the toll-free telephone level of service available to taxpayers, meaning that wait times to speak to an IRS assistor remain high and the overall level of service remains below the 80-percent level desired, the report found.

Each year, millions of taxpayers contact the IRS by calling the various toll-free telephone assistance lines to seek help in understanding tax laws and meeting their tax obligations. During the 2011 Filing Season, taxpayers made approximately 80 million attempts to call the toll-free telephone lines, a record high and an increase from 74 million during the 2010 Filing Season. TIGTA found that the IRS exceeded its goals by achieving a 74.6 percent level of service, meaning that 74.6 percent of callers who wished to speak to an assistor were able to speak with one. The IRS had planned to achieve a 71 percent level of service rate.

TIGTA performed its audit to monitor toll-free telephone access during the 2011 Filing Season and evaluate the toll-free estimated wait time process. TIGTA found that on average, taxpayers waited 10 minutes to speak to an assistor. TIGTA also found the estimated “wait time” message, which informs taxpayers of their expected wait time to reach an assistor, on 74 percent of the IRS’s assistor-staffed applications. This message allows taxpayers to decide whether to wait for an assistor or hang up and call at another time.

"I applaud the IRS on its successes improving the level of toll-free customer assistance, particularly during a time of increased call demand and limited resources," said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. "At the same time, as more taxpayers than ever are seeking assistance from the IRS’s toll-free telephone lines, I urge the IRS to strive for additional improvement.”

TIGTA made no recommendations in this report. IRS officials were provided an opportunity to review the draft report but made no comments.

Read the report.

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