IRS Customer Service leaves taxpayers “floundering on the rocks of confusion, frustration, and misinformation”

Submitted by IMorales on Monday, May 17th, 2021, 4,15 PM

The IRS utterly fails to provide basic service and assistance to taxpayers and is ranked last among federal agencies for providing quality communication, according to National Taxpayer Advocate’s 2018 Annual Report to Congress.  

As the NTA report notes, the IRS was ranked last out of 15 federal agencies in its ability to provide quality communication. Taxpayers wishing to communicate with the IRS are unlikely to find real people to talk to and must navigate a confusing automated phone system and interpret agency acronyms and function names:

“The IRS was recently ranked last in quality communication in a survey of 15 federal agencies undertaken by Forrester Research. All too often, taxpayers wishing to obtain information must embark on a voyage that requires them to interpret obscure IRS acronyms and function names, navigate a complex and multifaceted phone tree, and identify unnamed and often-changing responsible IRS officials. This journey is by no means a seamless one, and in many cases, taxpayers are left floundering on the rocks of confusion, frustration, and misinformation.”

As the report explains, this complexity is part of a deliberate effort by the IRS to minimize the number of calls it gets from taxpayers. This includes deliberately designing letters to suppress follow up from taxpayers:

“The IRS does its best to push everyone into a “one size fits all” virtual environment… Further, the IRS has attempted to design letters that artificially suppress the number of follow-up calls, even when the outcome is bad for the IRS and worse for taxpayers.”

As a result, it is exceedingly difficult for taxpayers to reach an IRS employee on the phone. The only way to do so is through the main phone line, which often has long-wait times:

Taxpayers often have difficulty locating IRS personnel who can provide accurate and responsive information regarding their cases. All too often, their only way of speaking with an actual person is by means of the IRS’s main toll-free phone line, which includes difficult-to-interpret options and can lead to extended and potentially expensive hold times.” 

If the taxpayer is successful in reaching an appropriate IRS employee, they have difficulty getting their calls returned. In addition, they have little recourse to complain if they receive inaccurate or insufficient information. As the report notes:

“Once taxpayers are successful in having their calls routed to the appropriate place, they all too often experience problems having those calls returned and receiving responsive information. Further, managers of unresponsive employees can sometimes be equally difficult to locate and contact. Currently, there is no universal complaint mechanism within the IRS that allows taxpayers to address these issues and have the results monitored…  

As the report points out, the IRS is required to make itself accessible to taxpayers under the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998. However, reaching IRS personnel is “impossible as a practical manner.” As the report notes:

“In the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 (RRA 98), Congress required the IRS to make itself accessible to taxpayers, specifically by placing the addresses and telephone numbers for local offices in local phone directories across the country. Although the IRS technically complies with these requirements, live telephone contact with a local office is impossible as a practical matter. Rather than reaching a person, taxpayers in search of local assistance from a TAC (Taxpayer Assistance Center) receive a recorded message accompanied by a menu that transfers them to the national IRS telephone line where they can speak with telephone assistors.”

While many on the Left argue that the IRS should be given more money and more power, the agency needs reform, not more taxpayer dollars. The IRS completely fails to provide reasonable service and assistance to taxpayers. Their systems are purposely designed to suppress follow up from confused taxpayers and there is little recourse for taxpayers to complain if they receive inaccurate or unhelpful information.

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