By A.J. Gross, C.P.A., E.A.
If you tried calling the IRS lately, you were likely either on hold for a long time or you were disconnected and told to call back later. You are not alone. Customer service at the IRS has declined significantly over the past year.
Just the other day, one of our clients told us about her call with the IRS. The client decided to work from home and set time aside to call the IRS. She was on hold for well over an hour! To make matters worse, the IRS employee was less than helpful. She left the call bewildered and even more confused. Thankfully she called us and we were able to help her.
Our client’s story about the customer service at the IRS is not unusual. Statistics show that over the last year the quality of customer service at the IRS has dropped significantly. The causes of the recent decline are budget cuts and increased responsibilities.
The IRS budget for FY2014 is $11.3 billion. This is a 7% drop from FY2010 which was $12.1 billion. The budget will decline an additional 3.4% or $416 million for FY2015. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, due to the budget cuts there are 13,000 fewer employees and 10,000 fewer enforcement staff since 2010. These reductions represent a 14% and 20% decline respectively. That is a significant impact.
Compounding the effect of the budget cuts is increased workload. The IRS is responsible for overseeing Obamacare. 7 million more individual tax returns were filed, which is a 5% increase. The number of identity theft cases has increased by 700%.
The budget cuts and increased workload has lead to dismal customer service. 6 out of 10 people will not be able to get a hold of the IRS for assistance. The IRS answered only 37% of taxpayers calls. The average wait time on hold is 23 minutes. Although, I find this number hard to believe as our firm is usually on hold for more than 45 minutes when calling the IRS. Compared to last year, the IRS answered 71% of the calls and the average wait time was 14 minutes. The number of “courtesy disconnects” has increased from 544,000 in 2014 to 8.8 million in 2015. That is increase of 1,500%.
We foresee the quality of customer service at the IRS to continue unless congress approves to increase the IRS budget by $2 billion. Until then, good luck calling the IRS!
A.J. Gross, C.P.A., E.A. is President of ALG Tax Solutions. A.J. Gross can be contacted at AJGross@algtaxsolutions.com or
This column was printed in the September 6, 2015 - September 19, 2015 edition.