Thursday, January 07, 2010

National Taxpayer Advocate Delivers Annual Report to Congress

In their new press release, the IRS discussed the annual report National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson delivered to Congress. She warned that increased demands on the IRS have eroded the agency’s ability to meet taxpayer service needs and expressed concern that IRS collection practices are harming financially struggling taxpayers without producing significant revenue gains.

In the preface to the report, Olson noted that she is required by statute to identify taxpayer problems, but she wrote that “the IRS in many respects has had an extremely successful year.” She cited, in particular, the IRS’s success in implementing significant legislative changes designed to stimulate the economy in the midst of the filing season.

Among the key issues and themes identified in this year’s report:

Telephone Service. The report designates the IRS’s declining ability to answer telephone calls as the most serious problem facing taxpayers. Olson notes that the IRS has set a target for FY 2010 of answering only 71 percent of calls from taxpayers seeking to speak with a customer service representative about account questions, down from 83 percent in FY 2007.

“In other words, the IRS is planning to be unable to answer about three of every 10 calls it receives,” Olson said, adding that the IRS expects those who get through will have to wait an average of 12 minutes. The report states that this projected level of service is barely above the level of 69 percent notched in 1998, when Congress passed the landmark IRS Restructuring and Reform Act due in large part to concerns about inadequate taxpayer service. “This level of service is unacceptable,” Olson wrote.

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