If you have called the Internal Revenue Service any time in the last few years, you may have been able to bake a cake or get a nice jog in on your treadmill while you were on hold.
The IRS Taxpayer Advocate, a department of the federal tax collection agency designed to advocate on behalf of taxpayers, just released a scathing report on major problems with IRS customer service. It reveals that millions of taxpayers have not been getting the assistance they need when calling the agency. In fact, in 2013, 39% of callers needing customer service hung up before their calls were ever answered. For those who managed to get through, many had to stay on hold for unreasonably long periods of time.
“Given our very limited resources, phone lines will be very busy, and there will frequently be extensive wait times,” says IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in a YouTube video posted by the agency. “Our employees would be delighted to provide better services. We have town hall meetings where they can ask anything. The common theme is that there are not enough people to get the work done.”
A Shrinking Budget
Congress has slashed the budget for the IRS over the last few years. Experts believe the main reason for this stems from the the negative sentiment toward the agency. Limiting government funding for it doesn’t seem to ruffle any feathers among Congressional leaders. The Taxpayer Advocate report found that in the 2012 federal budget, the agency allotted $172 million for training of its customer service representatives. Currently, it has just $22 million for training purposes – a decrease of 87%.
A Smaller Staff to Assist
In the midst of these financial woes, the IRS also lost 8,000 employees between 2010 and 2012. Experts attribute some of this reduction to the agency’s aging workforce. In fact, for fiscal year 2017, about 70% of the agency’s executives and half of its non-executive staff will reach retirement age.
Last year’s sequester also forced many employees to take furlough days. This put a damper on customer service as it shut down some of its phone lines on these non-holidays. In addition, evidence shows there have been few pay raises at the IRS, which is why many of its tax professionals have left for better positions at privately-owned accounting firms.
What This Means for Taxpayers
The IRS is directing more and more taxpayers to its website for answers instead of providing phone support. This is not always the best option for elderly, disabled, and lower-income taxpayers who may not have convenient Internet access.
Poor customer service means taxpayers could face undesirable audits, fines, penalties, liens, and other issues simply because they can’t get answers to tax questions. Many taxpayers have been penalized due to a lack of customer service assistance from the IRS.
How 1-800Accountant Can Help
If you can’t get help from the IRS, 1-800Accountant is here to assist you with all of your tax and accounting needs. 1-800Accountant has many accountants, CPAs, and enrolled agents on staff who are always available to answer your tax questions. These include any simple or complex issues regarding both personal taxes and business taxes. The firm’s phone, e-mail, and live online chat support is second-to-none. Even if your specific accountant isn’t available, there are always others who can assist you and work with the IRS on your behalf, especially during tax season. Learn more by calling 1-888-749-01171-888-749-0117 or by visiting www.1-800Accountant.