IRS and customer service

There’s less than one month until April 15th when taxes are due. This year more people will qualify for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, which provides a free service for taxpayers who meet specific income guidelines which includes some of the hardest hit individuals and families. Needing the most help will be:

  1. Those taxpayers who didn’t have taxes withheld from their unemployment checks (Yes, there is income tax on unemployment.)
  2. Those taxpayers who tapped into their IRAs and 401Ks before retirement age in order to feed their families and pay the rent.

There is an IRS toll-free assistance service for taxpayers, but only 2 out of 3 taxpayers will ever reach a human. IRS admits they are striving to answer 71.2% of the calls; therefore 28.8% are obviously just out of luck. That’s a bleak reflection on customer service especially since all Americans are required to participate.

TIGTA General J. Russel George states that IRS will increase the number of assistants during the fiscal year, have six applications in which to handle Recovery Act call volume, and develop a Web base for certain taxpayers.

The Taxpayer Advocate Service within the IRS helps taxpayers resolve complaints that are not resolved through normal channels. The service protects individual taxpayer rights and helps to reduce the taxpayer burden. Within the department, the Taxpayer Advocates represents your interest and concerns within the IRS.

IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman assures us that agents will have more flexibility this year to settle with newly unemployed individuals and those who have had their incomes drastically fall. This is somewhat of a dubious promise however since last year’s tax enforcement by IRS for liens and judgments increased by 26%. In 2008, IRS received 52,000 requests to settle and only 11,000 requests were approved; a paltry 20%.

In order to provide better customer service, the IRS needs more toll-free lines. Taxpayers who have financial difficulty need to be dealt with differently. Levies and seizures can be detrimental to employment as well as credit scores. While the government pushes a tax payer into abject poverty, the American dream of home ownership and enjoyment of life are lost forever.

In 2008, leadership training was the only type of training companies spent more money on than customer service, yet even the government displays highly ineffective methods addressing perhaps the one “Service” that affects every American. Isn’t it time the government addressed customer service?

photo credit: numberstumper

One Response to “IRS and customer service”

  1. Kathy Clark said:

    Mar 21, 10 at 7:21 pm

    Very good points, and sadly true. Something I just learned is the IRS is looking for volunteers to serve on a Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP). They are looking for volunteers from all 50 states to help them identify issues and help make recommendations for improvement. Applications for TAP will be accepted through April 30 and are available online Not a quick fix but certainly an opportunity for anyone who wants to influence how the IRS serves the public!