IRS customer service deteriorates with cuts

| Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, 8:06 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Only 61 percent of the more than 100 million customer-service phone calls made to the Internal Revenue Service last year were answered, the nation's taxpayer advocate said in her annual report released on Thursday.

In addition, the IRS has done a poorer job in recent years dealing with walk-ins at local offices and responding on a timely basis to letters, Nina Olson reported. She cited an 8 percent cut in IRS funding and staffing since 2010 as the cause.

As a result, the report says, “Tax preparation and filing assistance is now, for the most part, privatized. That is, for a taxpayer to comply with his or her requirement to file a tax return, the taxpayer must pay for assistance, pay for software and pay for advice.” Taxpayers, Olson said in an interview, “will not be able to get through on the phone when the IRS has sent them a notice and says, ‘We are going to do X to you. Or we have adjusted your return and if you disagree, call us or write us.' ”

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen made a public appeal earlier this week for “adequate resources” for his agency.

“I'm extremely concerned about the deep budget cuts that our agency has had to absorb over the last few years,” Koskinen said. “It's critical that we find a solution to this problem, and I will do everything I can to make sure that we do.”

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