If you have experienced long hold times and inefficient service from the IRS, please know that you aren’t alone. Even professionals have sat on hold for lengthy periods.
Just a few years ago, tax experts could usually count on speaking with a human almost immediately after dialing the agency. That’s no longer the case.
IRS customer service personnel are not happy with the situation either. Budget cuts have led to staffing limitation, and existing workers are feeling the impact. The situation not only creates stress for IRS employees, but also for taxpayers who must tolerate what feels like an endless wait to get a resolution of their tax problems.
A great part of this problem came from the agency’s 2013 $618 million budget cut. As a result, customer service was vastly reduced and employee compensation was reduced by $276 million. This included furloughing employees for three days.
Enforcement personnel and audit staff also received cuts. Audits went down 5% and individual return audits declined to 1,404,931 from 1,481,966 in full year 2012. Collection activities such as “taxpayer liens, levies, and property seizures declined from 3,669,663 in FY 2012 to 2,457,647 in FY 2013, an approximately 33 percent decrease,” according to Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).
But all of that is about to change.
President Obama has revealed his proposed 2015 budget, which includes a $1.2 billion increase to $12.5 billion from the current $11.3 billion—an 11% increase.
At the end of April, TIGTA said the IRS wants to focus on improving customer services, increase compliance and combat fraud. “The IRS’s role is unique within the Federal Government in that it collects the revenue that funds the Government and administers the Nation’s tax laws. It also works to protect Federal revenue by detecting and preventing the growing risk of fraudulent tax refunds and other improper payments,” TIGTA said in the statement.
The IRS is tasked with enforcing the Affordable Care Act’s penalties and policing its subsidies. The president’s signature legislation requires most Americans to have insurance by March 31 for 2014 or face a penalty of $95 a year or 1% of their income for failing to comply.
Several years ago, the IRS received a budget increase but the monies were allocated primarily to systems modernization (computers) and enforcement. In fact, customer service received a cut to their operations at that time. However, the allocation tables for 2015 show a different story. Customer service will receive an injection of 7.5% increase to their budget.
More and more taxpayers are becoming aware of online solutions to their tax concerns. If you want quick information on the rules, want to set up an installment agreement or check the status of your tax refund, don’t wait on hold to speak to someone, go here to find the answers.
Bonnie Lee is an enrolled agent admitted to practice and representing taxpayers in all 50 states at all levels within the Internal Revenue Service. She is the owner of Taxpertise in Sonoma, Calif., and the author of Entrepreneur Press book, “Taxpertise, The Complete Book of Dirty Little Secrets and Hidden Deductions for Small Business that the IRS Doesn't Want You to Know.” Her new e-book Taxpertise for the Creative Mind Murder, Mayem, Romance, Comedy and Tax Tips for Artists of all Kinds is available at all major booksellers. Follow Bonnie Lee on Twitter and on Facebook.