TREASURY INSPECTOR GENERAL FOR TAX ADMINISTRATION

Office of Audit

Highlights

The Internal Revenue Service Did Not Follow Congressional Directives Before Closing Taxpayer Assistance Centers; A Data-Driven Model Should be Used to Optimize Locations

Final Report issued on May 8, 2019

Highlights of Reference Number:  2019-40-029 to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue.

IMPACT ON TAXPAYERS

The IRS provides taxpayers with face-to-face tax assistance throughout the Nation at 359 Taxpayer Assistance Centers, 38 Virtual Service Delivery sites, and five Social Security Administration offices, as of December 31, 2018.  The IRS should place these sites in optimal locations to service taxpayers who are likely to seek face-to-face assistance.  These taxpayers include individuals whose issues cannot be resolved through other methods or who prefer face-to-face assistance to meet their tax obligations.

WHY TIGTA DID THE AUDIT

This audit was initiated to follow up on TIGTA’s previous audit recommendations and to evaluate IRS efforts to provide tax account assistance to taxpayers seeking face-to-face assistance.

WHAT TIGTA FOUND

The IRS established a face-to-face assistance appointment system in Fiscal Year 2017 that improved customer service for taxpayers.  For example, the IRS reported that, since adopting this system, just over one-half of the taxpayers who call the appointment telephone line have their issues resolved by an IRS customer service representative and can avoid travelling to a face-to-face assistance site.

However, the IRS did not comply with the congressional directives accompanying the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 prior to closing Taxpayer Assistance Centers in Calendar Year 2018.  For example, the IRS did not timely provide a report to congressional committees on the steps being taken to prevent Taxpayer Assistance Center closures.  In addition, the IRS did not conduct a study on the taxpayer impact of closing four Taxpayer Assistance Centers that the IRS closed after Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018.  The IRS did not hold a public forum in the four affected communities at least six months prior to closing the Taxpayer Assistance Centers.

Additionally, the IRS did not use its data‑driven Geographic Coverage Model to expand face-to-face assistance to new locations.  TIGTA’s analysis of this model identified 28 underserved areas with a high number of taxpayers who are likely to seek face-to-face assistance.  These taxpayers have low income or received an IRS letter or notice and live more than 30 miles from a Taxpayer Assistance Center.

WHAT TIGTA RECOMMENDED

TIGTA recommended that the IRS ensure that 1) an assessment is completed on the adverse effects a planned Taxpayer Assistance Center closure might have on taxpayers’ ability to interact with the IRS, and a public forum is held prior to closing a Taxpayer Assistance Center, and 2) the Geographic Coverage Model is used to support decisions on the locations of current Virtual Service Delivery and Social Security Administration co-located sites and for future expansion of these sites.

IRS management partially agreed with TIGTA’s recommendation that the IRS complete an assessment on the impact that a Taxpayer Assistance Center closure might have on taxpayers’ ability to interact with the IRS.  Management stated that procedures are in place to ensure that community input is considered when decisions are made to close, consolidate, or replace a Taxpayer Assistance Center.  IRS management also stated that they complied with the directive to hold a public forum prior to closing a Taxpayer Assistance Center.

Although IRS management agreed with TIGTA’s second recommendation, the planned corrective actions will not address the deficiencies cited in the report. 

READ THE FULL REPORT

To view the report, including the scope, methodology, and full IRS response, go to:

https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/auditreports/2019reports/201940029fr.pdf.

 

Phone Number   /  202-622-6500

E-mail Address  /  TIGTACommunications@tigta.treas.gov

Website             /  https://www.treasury.gov/tigta