Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
August 11, 2011
TIGTA - 2011-46
Contact: Karen Kraushaar
WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provides helpful and accurate tax law assistance, but taxpayers experience lengthy wait times to speak with assistors, according to a new report publicly released by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).
The audit, a follow-up review to a prior TIGTA report, was initiated to determine the quality of customer service the IRS provides taxpayers who seek assistance with understanding the tax laws and preparing their tax returns.
TIGTA’s auditors posed as taxpayers to obtain answers to tax law questions from the Toll-Free telephone assistance lines, IRS.gov, and Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs). Auditors received accurate responses to all tax law questions, and were able to accurately prepare tax returns using the various IRS sources, including the Free File Program. Further, a review of a sample of contact recordings of tax return preparation assistance provided at TACs nationwide showed that assistors accurately prepared tax returns.
However, auditors found that taxpayers experience long wait times at the TACs and on the telephones. At TACs, TIGTA auditors waited an average of one hour to receive assistance and in some cases were turned away and told to return another day to obtain services. In addition, TACs do not always allow qualified taxpayers to schedule appointments and do not consistently apply new taxpayer screening guidelines and procedures.
“An important part of the IRS’s mission is to help taxpayers understand and meet their tax obligations,” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “We urge the IRS to make improvements as we have outlined in order to improve taxpayer service.”
TIGTA recommended that the Commissioner, Wage and Investment Division, reinforce existing controls to ensure TAC managers appropriately schedule appointments requested by taxpayers who have an ongoing, complex tax account problem or a special need, such as a disability. The IRS should also add information on IRS.gov and on TAC telephone recordings to inform taxpayers they may be asked to provide identification and Social Security Numbers to receive assistance.In their response to the report, IRS officials agreed with both recommendations. Management plans to issue additional instructions to TAC managers relating to scheduling appointments. The IRS also plans to update IRS.gov and TAC telephone recordings to include a statement advising taxpayers they may be asked to provide valid photo identification and a Taxpayer Identification Number, such as a Social Security Number, to receive services.
Read the report.
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