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Taxpayer Advocate Warns about Decline in Taxpayer Service

November 22, 2013

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, who leads the Taxpayer Advocate Service at the Internal Revenue Service, decried the plummeting levels of customer service at the IRS in a recent speech.

During a speech at the California Tax Bar and California Tax Policy Conference in San Jose, Calif., earlier this month, Olson offered a sneak peek of her annual report to Congress, criticizing the difficulty of getting help by phone or letter, according to Tax Analysts. In the last week of October, for example, the percentage of telephone callers who were able to reach a live person at the IRS was an abysmal 39 percent.

“That means that two-thirds of taxpayers who were trying to get live contact could not get through,” she pointed out.

Nina Olson

Trying to reach the IRS by letter is also difficult, with large proportions of unanswered correspondence.
Olson blamed persistent budget cuts that have devastated the level of assistance that the IRS can provide, along with technology that has automated the system to the point that tax levies are automatically put on taxpayers’ accounts. Then they can’t reach anyone at the IRS to help them reclaim their funds if they have been penalized unfairly.

“If you can't get through on the phone, what happens?” she asked. “The money goes out the door, from the taxpayer's point of view. Then they have to keep trying to get through to the IRS to get that money back. This is what we're doing with individual taxpayers in tax administration today, and I don't know how long we can keep doing that to people until they start walking with their feet and go underground.”

She also pointed out that the IRS will not be providing free tax preparation services for the poor, elderly and disabled at its free walk-in clinics as of January 1, making it the only industrialized country that doesn’t offer such services to taxpayers.

Tax Analysts has further excerpts from Olson’s speech, ahead of what promises to be an eye-opening report to Congress.

Comments (2)
Not to sound political, but hard not to, but giving the IRS the proper funding would actually help the IRS to collect more, if not all of the proper tax due, which would decrease the deficit. Now guess which hypocrites keep cutting their funding. This protect the larger targets as the IRS can now only go after the low hanging fruit for the quick solutions. Of course the other side isn't very responsive either.

And of course, as I keep repeating to no avail, we have "The finest Congress that money can buy."

And to DW, I still find good people at the IRS, with only a few a--holes.
Posted by | Tuesday, November 26 2013 at 9:55PM ET
This will be my 50th year of tax work. I will be 75 in January. I have been responsible for the preparation of a little over 244,000 thousand Federal and State Income Tax Returns. I've attended hundreds of Tax Audits. I have done fifty plus Offers-in-Compromise.

Early on when we dealt with really difficult issues I successfully utilized Congressional intervention.

Then they started using Form letters with less good results.

Then the IR [you will notice that I did not use the typical acronym of IRS, because for the most part they no longer give Service!!!!!] developed their much acclaimed Problem Resolution Program, they rolled that with lots of bells and whistles and phazzazz!

Then Congress said that we needed a kinder and gentler IRS, they recast Problem Resolution with Taxpayer Advocacy Program. Early on when you talked to them they referred to the IRS almost like they were a separate and distinct entity.

Today, dealing with the Taxpayer Advocacy Office is like dealing with the regular IRS office.

I I sound bitter you just don't understand. Over the years I have developed and maintained good long lasting friendships of IRS employees.

For example, the next day after the awful Joplin May 22, 2001 Tornado one of my early well being inquiries was to long time friend IRS employee Moore. Thankfully he and his wife were not seriously hurt.

I dealt with Examiners and Revenue Officers, I suggest that over the years I dealt with over forty diffent employees. If I maed an enemy or if I did not gain their respect, each of them, I do not know who it might have been.

Did we always agree? NO! Did I alway win? NO! But, they were respectful and respectible.

Are ny dealings with the IRS that way today? NO! All too often it is someone that treats people like they are dumb, like they are inferior to them.

More money does not make better IRS employees. Just like more money does not make better school teachers.

I am not sure that I have the answer. After watching some of the IRS testimony before congress I am inclined to believe that it is a top down issue. But, in all honesty I am not sure that I am correct.

Posted by dwin | Monday, November 25 2013 at 3:34PM ET
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