IRS customer service leaves millions of calls unanswered - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

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>>

  • Garner's family meets U.S. attorney

    Staten Island stores worried about rally

    Staten Island stores worried about rally

    Thursday, August 21 2014 11:01 PM EDT2014-08-22 03:01:16 GMT
    The Rev. Al Sharpton and family members of Eric Garner came from a meeting with U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch in which they asked for a federal civil rights investigation into his apparent chokehold death. Meantime, Staten Island businesses are bracing for the huge crowds expected at Saturday's march. Sharpton said he is estimating about 3,000 to 5,000 people to rally Saturday.
    The Rev. Al Sharpton and family members of Eric Garner came from a meeting with U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch in which they asked for a federal civil rights investigation into his apparent chokehold death. Meantime, Staten Island businesses are bracing for the huge crowds expected at Saturday's march. Sharpton said he is estimating about 3,000 to 5,000 people to rally Saturday.
  • Brooklyn Nets Kids Dance Team auditions

    Brooklyn Nets Kids Dance Team auditions

    Thursday, August 21 2014 10:26 PM EDT2014-08-22 02:26:39 GMT
    Out of over 500 hopefuls only a handful will join the Brooklyn Nets Kids Dance Team. The Nets held auditions this week at LIU Brooklyn. Adorable Bronx native Arielle was turned away last year but this time around she's made it through to the final round of the auditions. But even those who were on the team last year still have to try out.
    Out of over 500 hopefuls only a handful will join the Brooklyn Nets Kids Dance Team. The Nets held auditions this week at LIU Brooklyn. Adorable Bronx native Arielle was turned away last year but this time around she's made it through to the final round of the auditions. But even those who were on the team last year still have to try out.
  • Chris Rock gets foul ball at Yankees game

    Chris Rock gets foul ball at Yankees game

    Thursday, August 21 2014 10:03 PM EDT2014-08-22 02:03:11 GMT
    Chris Rock almost made the play of the day at Yankee Stadium. Instead, the comedian wound up with a nice prize -- a foul ball that nearly landed in his lap during Thursday's game between the Houston Astros and New York Yankees.
    Chris Rock almost made the play of the day at Yankee Stadium. Instead, the comedian wound up with a nice prize -- a foul ball that nearly landed in his lap during Thursday's game between the Houston Astros and New York Yankees.
Powered by WorldNow

KTTV FOX 11
1999 S. Bundy Dr.
Los Angeles CA 90025

Main: (310) 584-2000
News Tips? (310) 584-2025

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