IRS customer service about to get worse
Budget cuts mean taxpayers who need help will spend more time waiting on the phone.
If you have a question about your taxes, here's a tip: Be prepared to be very patient.
The Internal Revenue Service answered a smaller share of taxpayer calls and kept taxpayers on hold longer last year than in other recent years, a new report finds. What's more, budget cuts could make it hard for taxpayers to get help this year as well.
The IRS could answer only 61 percent of the calls it received from taxpayers during the 2013 fiscal year, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson said in a report released to Congress on Jan. 9.
That means that the rest of the calls -- about 20 million -- just didn't get through, the independent taxpayer advocate said.
Taxpayers who got help had to wait a long time for it. The taxpayer advocate said callers who got through were on hold for an average of nearly 18 minutes before talking to a customer service representative during the 2013 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30.
The level of service is a sharp drop from a decade ago. In the 2004 fiscal year, the IRS answered nearly 9 in 10 calls, and the average wait time was less than three minutes, according to the taxpayer advocate, an independent voice in the IRS that works on behalf of taxpayers.
Olson blamed a lack of resources. The overall IRS budget has been cut every year since the 2010 fiscal year, her report said, and the amount allocated for training has been slashed significantly as part of that.
It's not likely that things will get better this year. The spending bill passed by the House and Senate last week includes another cut to the IRS budget, even as the tax man grapples with problems including the continued threat of identity theft tax fraud.
Given its limited resources, the IRS said that in 2014 it will stop preparing tax returns for people who need help, such as those who are elderly or disabled. The agency also plans to answer only "basic" tax law questions, and only during the normal filing season through April 15. Instead, it will direct people to the website and other automated sources of information.
"(I)t 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," Olson said in the report.
In a statement in response to the taxpayer advocate report, the agency said: "The IRS continues to make progress on a number of the critical issues outlined in the Advocate's report. It is important to note that the IRS must carefully balance limited resources to meet its dual mission of providing taxpayer service and enforcing the tax laws."
Outside experts say the lack of help is a concern both for taxpayers and for the government, which may not get all the money it should if people file their taxes incorrectly.
"It's a lose-lose situation," said Nina Crimm, a professor at St. John's University School of Law and an expert on tax issues. "It's a lose situation for … the average taxpayer, and it's a lose situation for compliance and collection of revenues."
Crimm's advice: Get started on your taxes early this year, so you aren't frantically trying to reach the IRS on April 14.
"They better start calling now," she said.
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This reminds me of that Obama stick I saw on Amazon. It said "Bend over, the change is coming."
Or was it the ox riding the moron??
Kinda like advertising self service embalming......
Taxes on wages (in any form – flat or progressive) are the greatest evil of our American Republic. When government is free to steal from you, there are no limits to waste and abuse in government. If a person chooses to work extra hours or two jobs in order to better provide for themselves or their family, they should not be penalized, but that is what happens. The more you make by working harder and longer, the more money is stolen from you, and given to those who spend their lives living off the hard work of others.
The revenue the government needs to provide legitimate constitutional services should be obtained primarily from a national sales tax instead of a tax on wages. All would pay based on consumption, the more you spend the more you pay. The more luxury you surround yourself with, the more you pay. Your choice. A national sales tax system would capture money spent by criminals and by illegal aliens who currently pay near zero in taxes. There would of course need to be exemptions: Cars (already have a federal excise tax) Primary Residence/Rental Properties (vacation homes would be subject to tax/rental profit would be taxed) Fresh Food (Preprocessed foods and prepared meals would be taxed – only fresh/fresh frozen/canned goods would be exempt) Insurance Premiums, Health Care & Certified Education.
Adding another layer of tax to a business would not be fair. Businesses would need to be compensated by keeping a portion of the tax to cover the expense of collection and reporting. A percentage of .20 to .05 would be fair.
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