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Where's the 'service' in Internal Revenue Service?

Too many callers can't get through or are given wrong answers.

By Jeff Schnepper Mar 26, 2010 9:14AM

Former Sen. Edward V. Long of Missouri called it an American “Gestapo,” but we know it now as the Internal Revenue Service.


I understand the “Internal” part because these financial vampires suck the monetary blood from your system.

I even understand the “Revenue” part because they want your money.


But, what happened to the “Service” part?


It’s not as if the Tax Code is a model of clarity. You should be able to call your government and have your tax questions answered correctly. After all, if the IRS doesn’t know the rules, how can it expect the rest of us to implement them?

Forget about knowing the right answer. In 2009, the IRS received 94 million calls and gave wrong or incomplete replies 7% of the time. According to my math, that’s more than 6.5 million people who got inaccurate information -- and probably completed their tax returns on that basis.


That’s a lot better than in 2001, when IRS statistics showed that 20% of the people who called the IRS toll-free help line received inaccurate replies.


At least someone answered the phone. In 2009, 30% of the callers never reached an IRS representative, which means three of every 10 calls never got through.


Callers lucky enough to get through had to wait an average of nearly 12 minutes on hold before being connected. Then, they had to hope they weren’t in the “sorry, wrong answer” 7%.


National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson is appropriately outraged. “Some taxpayers give up and don’t bother to file or make avoidable errors that the IRS then must devote resources toward resolving,’’ she asserts.


No excuses!


But maybe an explanation.


IRS resources are limited and must be allocated among competing demands. Perhaps if Congress didn’t have major tax law changes each year, with many passed in December, there would be fewer calls. At least there would be fewer amended returns.


Maybe if Congress didn’t bury the IRS with implementing rebates, coordinating stimulus payments and a myriad of other non-tax-related functions, it would have the resources to answer the darn phone.


Tell me what you think.


Just don’t call. I only pick up 80% of my calls. But, I’m still better than the IRS!


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Jan 27, 2011 10:46AM
What do you know about filing for your taxes "9 and married" where basically you don't pay your taxes until tax day?
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