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Calling the IRS? It may not answer

Poor customer service hurts ability to collect taxes, taxpayer advocate says.

By Teresa Mears Jan 21, 2010 11:12AM

This news article comes from Martin Vaughan at partner site The Wall Street Journal:


An expanding slate of duties is stretching the Internal Revenue Service too thin, leading to poor customer service and undermining its ability to collect taxes, a government watchdog said.


Twenty-nine percent of callers to the IRS's toll-free help line this tax season won't get through to a human being -- and that's if the agency meets its own service goals. Nina E. Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate, deemed that level of service "unacceptable" in her annual report to Congress.


Ms. Olson identified the IRS lack of responsiveness to telephone calls as the No. 1 problem currently facing taxpayers. Poor service "will cause problems for taxpayers and the IRS alike," she wrote, as some taxpayers give up and don't bother to file or make errors that then must be resolved. The IRS lacks a successful strategy for collecting debts owed, she said.


The IRS said it has been inundated with taxpayer calls in the past two years about temporary tax breaks passed by Congress to help revive the economy. "Resources available to deliver telephone services are finite and staffing allocations must be made in light of competing demands necessary to meet other customer needs and preferences," the IRS said in a written response to the report.


Related reading from The Wall Street Journal:


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