Taxpayers should expect the worst service by the IRS in nearly 15 years, according to a new report that was released yesterday. The National Taxpayer Advocate, a watchdog group within the IRS, said in its annual report that increased workload and reduced funding will create a “perfect storm” that will frustrate taxpayers.
“Taxpayers who need help are not getting it, and tax compliance is likely to suffer over the longer term if these problems are not quickly and decisively addressed,” wrote National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson, who oversees the report.
According to the report, the IRS is unlikely to answer half of the more than 100 million phone calls it receives from taxpayers. Callers should expect to wait 30 minutes on average and “considerably longer at peak times” according to the report.
In addition, during the upcoming filing season, the IRS will only answer “basic tax-law questions and will not answer any after the filing season concludes – even though 15 million taxpayers file later in the year. Tax assistance by the IRS has been completely eliminated.
“We do not think it is acceptable for the government to tell millions of taxpayers who seek help each year, in essence, ‘We’re sorry. You’re on your own,’” the report says.
The report says, compared to a decade ago, the IRS is receiving 11% more returns from individuals, 18% more returns from business entities and 70% more telephone calls – and that implementation of the Affordable Care Act, among other things, will create considerable more work. But the IRS’ budget has been reduced by about 17% from five years ago, resulting in a reduction of nearly 12,000 employees. “Like any agency, the IRS can operate more effectively and efficiently in certain areas,” Olson wrote. “However, we do not see any substitute for sufficient personnel if high-quality taxpayer service is to be provided.”
In addition to increased funding, Olson recommends taxpayers have access to individual names and contact information of IRS personnel who are assigned to an audit or tax matter. She also suggests that it should be more clear who the appropriate person is to speak to for specific questions.