Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
July 11, 2012
TIGTA - 2012-30
Contact: David Barnes
WASHINGTON Ė The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) lacks a formalized process to track or analyze the calls received by its toll-free telephone line for taxpayers, ASK-TAS1, according to a new report publicly released today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).
Absent such a process, it is not possible for TAS to assess the effectiveness of this toll-free line in generating cases that meet TAS case acceptance criteria, according to the report.
TIGTA initiated its audit to evaluate the use of two TAS toll-free telephone lines, including service provided to taxpayers and costs associated with the lines, to determine whether opportunities exist to reduce duplication and achieve cost savings. The National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) toll-free line, established in 1998, is staffed by Wage and Investment customer service representatives. The ASK-TAS1 toll free line was established in 2004 and is staffed by TAS personnel.
Millions of taxpayers contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) each year by calling the various toll-free telephone assistance lines to seek help in understanding tax laws and meeting their tax obligations. Taxpayers specifically requesting TAS assistance have several telephone options, including the ASK-TAS1 line.
TIGTA determined that TAS does not have a formalized process to track or analyze the calls received by the ASK-TAS1 toll-free line to assess the effectiveness of its outreach efforts in generating cases meeting TAS case criteria. In addition, TAS management is planning a new process involving both the NTA and the ASK-TAS1 toll-free lines. The new process will require Wage and Investment Division customer service representatives answering the NTA toll-free line to transfer calls to the ASK-TAS1 toll-free line if they determine a call meets TAS case criteria. While this approach could have merit, it would involve development of additional technological features, additional or reallocated resources, and new procedures for both Wage and Investment Division and TAS employees involved with the toll-free telephone calls.
TAS management had not prepared detailed documentation that clearly outlines their methodology, such as how many TAS personnel will be required to answer the transferred calls and how TAS management would evaluate the costs and expected benefits of handling the increased call volume from the NTA toll-free line when implemented.
TIGTA recommended that the NTA develop a formalized process to track and analyze the impact of any targeted outreach that results in calls received by the ASK-TAS1 toll-free line. The NTA should also prepare detailed documentation that clearly summarizes how the ASK-TAS1 toll-free line will be used in the future, and should periodically analyze the call statistics for the new process to determine whether TAS personnel are answering calls in an efficient manner.
TAS management agreed with all three recommendations. Managementís plans for the ASK-TAS1 toll free line include tracking and analyzing calls to the line, documenting TASís future vision for it, and using statistical information to monitor the transfer of calls to the line.
Read the report.
Note: The difference between the date TIGTA issues an audit report to the Internal Revenue Service and the date TIGTA publicly releases the report is due to TIGTA's internal review process to ensure that public release is in compliance with Federal confidentiality laws.
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