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Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

Press Release

March 16, 2010
TIGTA - 2010-05
Contact: Karen Kraushaar
(202) 622-6500

IRS Toll-Free Lines: Taxpayer Call Demand May Exceed Projections if IRS Does Not Implement Planned Actions On Schedule

WASHINGTON -- The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) today publicly released its review of the Internal Revenue Service's plans to improve taxpayer access to its customer service toll-free telephone assistance lines.

The IRS maintains toll-free telephone numbers for taxpayers seeking help in understanding tax laws and their tax compliance obligations. TIGTA's audit found that the IRS planned to increase the number of employees available to process taxpayer calls during the 2010 filing season. The IRS also planned to provide taxpayers with the option to connect with IRS employees trained to answer questions about the impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the Recovery Act) on individual taxpayers.

Even with the planned improvements, only two out of three taxpayers who call the numbers will get through to a human being and all callers will face longer waits before their calls are answered, TIGTA found. The IRS is hoping to ensure it will be able to provide a 71.2 percent Level of Service for the 2010 filing season, which means that just 71.2 percent of taxpayers who call the toll-free assistance lines will actually reach a live human being. The IRS also has a 2010 goal of answering calls within 11.6 minutes. In 2009, taxpayers waited an average 8.8 minutes before their calls were answered.

"Based on our audit work during the last two filing seasons, we believe the IRS's performance measures for 2010 are achievable if the agency completes all of its preparations for the current filing season," said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Those preparations include increasing the number of assistors available during the fiscal year, establishing six applications to handle Recovery Act call volume, and developing a Web-based application for certain taxpayers, he noted. "Delays to any of those initiatives would pose significant risk for delivering a successful filing season, " he added.

TIGTA did not make any recommendations in this report. In its response to a draft of the report, the IRS stated that it has hired and trained additional employees to staff the customer assistance phones and has taken other actions to prepare for the 2010 filing season.


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