Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
July 29, 2014
TIGTA - 2014-15
Contact: David Barnes
WASHINGTON -- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) did not evaluate the potential impact of reducing or eliminating key services at 386 Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) prior to implementing changes at those locations, according to a report released publicly today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).
The IRS provides taxpayers with face-to-face tax assistance at 386 TACs. As part of its Fiscal Year 2014 Service Approach, the IRS eliminated or reduced tax return preparation, tax law assistance, refund inquiries, and transcript request services. However, prior to developing this plan, the IRS did not evaluate the burden each service change will have on taxpayers who visit the centers.
“The taxpayers most likely to visit Taxpayer Assistance Centers include low-income, elderly, and limited-English-proficient taxpayers who seek assistance in complying with the tax laws,” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “It is important to evaluate the burden and impact that service cuts at these locations could have before taking action because many taxpayers rely on these Centers to help them understand and meet their basic tax obligations.”
George noted that in addition, the IRS has not established processes to identify optimal locations to provide face-to-face services or to identify underserved areas that would benefit from virtual service (through computer video). Moreover, the data available to management for use in assessing potential site closures are based on incomplete information.
TIGTA initiated its audit to assess the IRS’s ability to provide effective and efficient service to taxpayers through its TAC Program. TIGTA found that the IRS has not adequately addressed two recommendations from previous TIGTA reports: It has not developed sufficient measures and goals for Facilitated Self-Assistance in the TACs. In addition, controls to ensure that data are entered accurately into management information systems and reviewed were not implemented until after TIGTA’s review.
TIGTA recommended that: the IRS ensure compliance with its own procedures, which require that service-related decisions be based on informed research; develop steps to be taken to collect data to monitor, measure, and adjust service changes; complete efforts to obtain data on the services that are most important to taxpayers; establish a methodology to identify the optimal locations for providing face-to-face assistance to the most taxpayers; develop and implement documentation requirements to support data analyses; establish a process to identify the best locations for virtual face-to-face services; and quantify the cost savings and benefits related to Virtual Service Delivery.
The IRS agreed with or indicated completion of four and disagreed with three of TIGTA’s recommendations. For certain corrective actions that the IRS proposed or stated were already implemented, TIGTA believes the actions are insufficient. The lack of sufficient corrective actions could, in turn, increase the burden on taxpayers who seek face-to-face assistance at the TACs.
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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