In its annual Report to Congress today, the office of the National Taxpayer Advocate outlined a series of Internal Revenue Service failures. In the “Access to the IRS” section, the report details the trouble taxpayers face reaching the right person in order to meet their tax obligations:
"The IRS does not answer the phone at local offices and has even removed the option it once provided for taxpayers, including the elderly and disabled, to leave a message.”
Until 2013, taxpayers — including the elderly and disabled — were allowed to leave a voicemail requesting an in-person appointment. But now, elderly and disabled taxpayers attempting to navigate the automated helpline maze are asked to email the IRS to set up an appointment. The automated message instructs as follows:
“If you are disabled or elderly and require special accommodations for service, please email us at…"
But this leaves many taxpayers in the dark. As the report states:
"Demographic research data show only 57 percent of adults over age 65 use the Internet compared with 87 percent of all adults. According to 2010 Census data, only 41 percent of those with a non-severe disability use the Internet and only 22 percent of those with a severe disability age 65 and older use the Internet. For those without Internet access, the only viable ways to reach the IRS are by phone, or in person."
On its helplines, the IRS is required to provide taxpayers the option to speak with a live person. But as the report states, the IRS won’t even answer questions about what lines are considered helplines:
"TAS [Taxpayer Advocate Service] twice inquired of the IRS in a formal information request whether it considers the 3709 lines to be ‘helplines' for the purpose of § 3705(d) of RRA 98, which would require them to have an option to speak with a live person. TAS also asked what lines the IRS does consider to be helplines. Twice, the IRS declined to answer these questions."
The full report may be accessed here.