Each year there is a report filed with Congress by the National Taxpayer Advocate, in which they identify items that will be addressed in the upcoming year and they give some background on if the previous tax filing season was successful or not. Many people have likely heard that the government has significantly cut the IRS budget, which obviously affects the abilities of the IRS to help taxpayers. Preparing tax returns is becoming more challenging due to the major changes being initiated under the Affordable Care Act and the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act and with several people being the victim of identity theft. With all of these changes occurring simultaneously, it was only a matter of time before taxpayer services were affected negatively.
The report shows a significant drop-off of taxpayer services from this past filing season compared to one year ago. The IRS answered 37% of calls from taxpayers that came to the customer services representatives during this past filing season, compared to 71% of calls being answered a year ago. The average wait time for these calls also increased roughly nine minutes compared to one year. For taxpayers who face financial hardship due to IRS action or inaction, the IRS answered 39% of calls this past season with roughly 19 minutes of wait time.
In the past few years the amount of people that have had their identities stolen by people filing fake returns using their social security numbers has increased. The IRS monitors returns and blocks returns that appear questionable to them through their program known as the Taxpayer Protection Program. There is a long process to get through to unfreeze your return and to get the proper refund due to you. For those taxpayers that called the IRS, after being notified of potential identity theft, only 17% of calls were answered during this past filing season. Taxpayers hold time was roughly 28 minutes for these calls.
It does not look promising that the government will suddenly increase the budget for the IRS, so these issues are likely to continue in the future. With more sweeping changes to the tax code likely coming forthwith, taxpayers trying to prepare their returns without help will likely become more frustrated in not being able to rely on the IRS for help. Where can you turn for help? Give us a call and we can prepare your return for you and help relieve some of the stress that comes with filing your return each year.
Written by Jonathan Novak.