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Monday April 15, 2024

Washington News

Washington Hotline

National Taxpayer Advocate Reports IRS Improvements

On June 22, 2023, National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins reported the IRS has substantially improved services. Collins noted, "This year, for the first time, the clouds are beginning to part, and I can see some blue sky."

Collins releases a midyear report each summer. She explained the IRS should be commended for reaching an 85% level of service (LOS) benchmark. However, when all the different operations of the IRS are considered, the actual percent of calls completed or answered by the IRS is only 35%.

The IRS did reach 85% on the general management phone lines, but there were other factors to consider. Millions of taxpayers hung up on the IRS and did not talk to a representative before being helped. Other calls were sent automatically to a recorded response line.

A major problem was the IRS call center handling installment agreements and payment of past-due taxes. This line had a success rate of only 46% even though it had implemented new voice bots.

Collins noted, "One would suspect the utilization of this bot would free up [customer service representatives] to assist more taxpayers on the line and improve its overall LOS." In addition, the failures on this line could subject some taxpayers to more serious enforcement actions include bank or wage levies.

Nevertheless, Collins noted, "the big picture shows taxpayers had a much easier time reaching the IRS this filing season."

The credit for the improvement was largely due to new funds in the Inflation Reduction Act. The IRS was able to hire more customer service representatives and answer an additional four million calls this year compared to last year.

Kenneth Corbin is the Commissioner of the IRS Wage and Investment Division. Mr. Corbin noted the IRS is directly hiring many representatives and that there are plans to "really double down on that for 2024."

The report from Collins also explained there are trade-offs when the IRS created the 85% level of service goal. The IRS customer representatives can either be answering taxpayer questions or processing mail correspondence. The focus on answering taxpayer questions caused a backlog on correspondence. It also resulted in many representatives being idle at various times.

The IRS has enhanced its efforts to scan paper returns. The new scanning technology has a 95% accuracy rate. However, the IRS is seeking to improve the accuracy of the scanned returns.

In April 2023, the IRS had 13.3 million paper returns stacked up at its centers. This year, the number of paper tax returns awaiting processing was reduced to 2.6 million. However, the IRS still has approximately 5 million unanswered taxpayer letters and correspondence.

The IRS has increased its efforts to improve the scanning software and hopes to expand scanning. By the end of this year, the system should cover all 180 forms that can be attached to your IRS Form 1040.

Published June 23, 2023
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