Americans requiring help in filing their 2013 tax returns will likely have to pay a private company for that assistance. That is because customer service from the Internal Revenue Service has fallen in recent years and doesn’t show any signs of rebounding. An IRS watchdog group has found that the IRS is becoming much less efficient in answering calls or even responding to in-person visits from taxpayers, leaving many frustrated with the inability to get their questions answered.
Many Calls Never get Answered
USA Today reports that National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson has been analyzing the service numbers from the IRS for 2013. Olson found that the agency only responded to approximately six out of every 10 calls made to their service representatives. With more than 100 million service calls made to the agency last year, that is a significant number of taxpayers who were unable to get help with their taxes from the IRS.
Olson found other problems with customer service at the agency as well. Callers that were able to get through to the agency had to wait on hold for an average of 18 minutes before their calls were answered. Taxpayers that tried to communicate with agency representatives by mail were met with similar frustrations, since responses to letters also faced significant delays.
“All the numbers that should be going up – taxpayers helped, calls answered, tax issues resolved, training completed – are going down,” Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, told USA Today. “All the numbers that should be decreasing are rising – identity theft cases, telephone wait times, delays in answering letters.”
The report from Olson states that as a result of poor customer service from the IRS, most taxpayer assistance is privatized today. That means taxpayers have to pay for their assistance and advice it getting their taxes filed correctly and on time. Even taxpayers that have questions about specific correspondence they received directly from the IRS may not be able to get in touch with a representative to have questions about the correspondence answered.
Reasons for the Low Ratings
The IRS has responded to the report, saying budget cuts at the agency in recent years have negatively impacted their ability to help taxpayers. Olson cited cuts of 8% since 2010, which have drastically reduced the pool of representatives dedicated to providing customer service for the agency. She agrees that the agency requires more funding to be able to adequately care for the millions of taxpayers needing assistance today.
Since additional funding does not seem to be in the agency’s future, customer service may continue to decline. Recently, the IRS announced it would no longer be able to answer questions involving tax law after the current tax filing year ends. Representatives at IRS walk-in locations are no longer preparing returns for elderly and disabled adults. People that do call the IRS are much more likely to encounter an automated system than a live voice.
The IRS is an example of how insufficient funding of your customer service department can greatly impact your customer’s experience. For companies that must compete for customers today, a prompt, responsive service department is an absolute must.