Customer service on decline as IRS budget and staffing shrink, advocate says

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A shrinking budget is causing the Internal Revenue Service's customer service to nosedive, a Jan. 9 report from the IRS's National Taxpayer Advocate Service says.

The Taxpayer Advocate acts as an independent ombudsman representing taxpayers at the IRS.

Customer service has become so poor that the IRS was only able to answer six out of every 10 calls from taxpayers who needed help during the past fiscal year, the report says.

About 20 million calls went unanswered last year, the report says, because there weren't enough IRS employees to answer them.

"Answering taxpayer telephone calls effectively is labor-intensive," Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson writes in the report. "While some callers can be assisted through automation, tens of millions of taxpayers want to speak with an IRS customer service representatives each year."

IRS staffing dropped by 8 percent over the last decade due to retirements and hiring freezes, one of the reasons nearly 60 percent of calls were missed. Ten years ago only 13 percent of calls went unanswered.

Taxpayers who did get through had to wait on hold for about 18 minutes, the report says, up from just three minutes ten years ago. Most of the increase in wait time occurred over the last three years when the IRS budget was scaled back by 3 percent.

The IRS will also no longer prepare tax returns for low income, elderly and the disabled, the report says, due to the budget and lack of staff.

For more:
- go to the National Taxpayer Advocate report
- read Koskinen's Jan. 6 speech

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