IRS Re-Tools Programs To Assist Taxpayers

Faced with a declining budget and increasing demand for services, the Internal Revenue Service is considering some major changes to ensure that it can meet future requirements for customer service, a new report from the Government Accountability notes.

The report says that the IRS was unable to keep pace with demand for telephone and correspondence service during last year’s tax season, despite productivity gains from technology, web services and electronic filing of information. Access to assistors by telephone remained at only 68 percent, with no improvement over the prior year. And the percentage of unanswered correspondence after 34 days declined from 40 percent last year to 47 percent this year.

The GAO notes that the agency may have to make drastic changes in its approach to customer service, recommending several steps to balance the demand for services with its available resources. This might, the GAO said, require some difficult tradeoffs that include limiting services. The IRS has agreed, and plans to limit some services in the coming year – including answering only the most basic tax questions during tax season.

The GAO also recommended ways the IRS can improve its approach to taxpayer installment agreements – the agreements with taxpayers who cannot fully pay those taxes when due, with installation agreements available online, by phone or by mail. The IRS devotes approximately 1,800 full-time-equivalent staff members to the program, but it is not as efficient as it could be, according to the GAO.

The GAO recommended that the IRS develop standardized account entries and eliminate unnecessary redundancy in the installment agreement process.

The GAO also noted that the IRS needs to improve its ability to notify and collect taxes from previous taxpayers who do not file in the current year, or whose filing is substantially different than in previous years.

Source: Government Accountability Office at