IRS customer service leaves millions of calls unanswered - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

IRS customer service leaves millions of calls unanswered

Posted: Updated:
By FOX NEWS - Have a question on your tax returns? Don't ask the IRS. 

As tax day looms, an annual watchdog report to Congress finds that the agency is falling short when it comes to answering Americans' questions about the convoluted tax code. 

The National Taxpayer Advocate found only 61 percent of people seeking to speak with a customer service representative last year got through to anybody -- leaving nearly 20 million calls unanswered. 

The report largely blamed budget cuts, and lamented the impact the poor customer service is having on taxpayers. 

"At the risk of vast understatement, it is a sad state of affairs when the government writes tax laws as complex as ours -- and then is unable to answer any questions beyond 'basic' ones from baffled citizens who are doing their best to comply," the report from National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson said. 

The study detailed how customer service has steadily declined over the past several years, including at its 400 "walk-in sites." In fiscal 2014, the office said, the IRS will only answer "basic" questions at those sites during filing season. And it will not answer any questions, "even basic ones," after April, even for filers who got extensions. 

"In addition, the IRS will discontinue its longstanding practice of preparing tax returns for low income, elderly and disabled taxpayers who seek help," the report said. 

With the erosion in services, wait times have gone up. In fiscal 2004, callers were left on hold for just 2.6 minutes. Today, the average wait time is nearly 18 minutes. 

Some taxpayers resort to writing letters to the IRS with their questions. The agency received 8.4 million such letters last year, but more than half were not answered by the end of fiscal 2013, the report said. 

The problems stems in large part from budget cuts. The training budget has, according to the report, gone from $172 million a few years ago to $22 million. The workforce itself has fallen from 95,000 full-time workers to 87,000. 

"Thus, the IRS not only has fewer employees than four years ago, but those who remain are less equipped to perform their jobs," the report said. 

As the IRS is reluctant, like other agencies, to simply lay off employees in the face of budget cuts, it has targeted areas like training for cuts.

Read More
  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • New York's microbrew industry growing

    New York's microbrew industry growing

    Monday, July 28 2014 8:25 PM EDT2014-07-29 00:25:22 GMT
    Local and small beer brewing companies have something to toast. The Brewers Association says microbrew sales grew in the first half of this year; up 18 percent over the same period last year. This comes at a time when overall domestic beer consumption is flat.Ethan Long, one of the owners of the Rockaway Brewing Company in Long Island City, started brewing beer two years ago.
    Local and small beer brewing companies have something to toast. The Brewers Association says microbrew sales grew in the first half of this year; up 18 percent over the same period last year. This comes at a time when overall domestic beer consumption is flat.Ethan Long, one of the owners of the Rockaway Brewing Company in Long Island City, started brewing beer two years ago.
  • 2 U.S. marshals, 1 NYPD detective wounded; fugitive killed in Manhattan

    2 U.S. marshals, 1 NYPD detective wounded; fugitive killed in Manhattan

    Monday, July 28 2014 6:58 PM EDT2014-07-28 22:58:41 GMT

    Two deputy U.S. marshals and an NYPD detective were seriously wounded in a shootout with a fugitive sexual assault suspect in the West Village in Manhattan, officials said. The shootout happened in smoke shop called Smoking Culture on West 4th Street near Jones Street.


    Two deputy U.S. marshals and an NYPD detective were seriously wounded in a shootout with a fugitive sexual assault suspect in the West Village in Manhattan, officials said. The shootout happened in smoke shop called Smoking Culture on West 4th Street near Jones Street.


  • Mayor de Blasio, Bratton seek to improve police-community relations

    Mayor de Blasio, Bratton seek to improve police-community relations

    Monday, July 28 2014 6:47 PM EDT2014-07-28 22:47:07 GMT
    Back from vacation, Mayor Bill de Blasio is addressing the allegations of police choke holds. Standing next to his police commissioner and standing by him, de Blasio declared police community relations will improve by Bill Bratton's call for retraining of officers. The mayor did say that police choke holds are not acceptable.
    Back from vacation, Mayor Bill de Blasio is addressing the allegations of police choke holds. Standing next to his police commissioner and standing by him, de Blasio declared police community relations will improve by Bill Bratton's call for retraining of officers. The mayor did say that police choke holds are not acceptable.
Powered by WorldNow

WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
5151 Wisconsin Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20016
Main Number: (202) 244-5151
Newsroom: (202) 895-3000
fox5tips@wttg.com

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices