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IRS Blues: Budget Cuts and Poor Customer Service

Posted by McDonald & Osborne Posted on Oct 14 2015

Its no secret that the U.S. Tax Code is growing more complex as new, confusing tax laws are passed each and every year. With the passing of each of these laws the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is granted more power and more responsibility. In 2014 the IRS will be charged with implementing the Affordable Care Act and making sure each American taxpayer is in compliance. Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post states:

“There are 47 separate Obamacare provisions that require involvement from the agency. The IRS is tasked with implementing the law’s required purchase of health coverage, checking whether millions of Americans are in compliance.

The IRS has so much work to do on the Affordable Care Act that it’s come up with an incredibly detailed organization chart, published last year in a Government Accountability Office report”.

Meanwhile, the same elected officials passing these complex tax laws are also cutting the budget (by 24%) with which the IRS has to work with. This can only result in poorer customer service. If you had called the IRS in 2004 there was a 90% chance your call would be answered and your wait time would average 3 minutes according to a recent National Taxpayer Advocate report . The same report stated that in 2013 only 61% of such calls were even answered by a representative and those that did get through had to wait an average of 18 minutes.

Since 2010 the IRS’ budget for training employees has been cut by 90% dropping from $172 million to $22 million dollars in 2013. As tax professionals, we often contact the IRS on behalf of our clients in dealing with issues ranging from tax notices to missing refunds. Over the years we have dealt with some very helpful and knowledgeable IRS agents. At the same time, we have had to deal with some who obviously could use a little more training on how the tax code actually works. Without proper agent training, taxpayers should expect more headaches in attempting to resolve tax related issues with the IRS.

As a result of the budget and training constraints, the IRS has issued a notice stating that agents working at walk-in Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) will no longer address “complex” tax law questions – only “simple” ones. Furthermore, no tax advice will be offered at all after April 15th. TAC workers also will forego the free tax preparation service they had previously offered to low-income, elderly and disabled taxpayers.

Of course we will continue to monitor all news and reports related to these issues. If you are having issues in dealing with the IRS, please feel free to give our office a call.

Stephen Osborne, CPA