Taxpayers calling the IRS for help last tax season endured longer hold times and more disconnected phone calls than in the past, according to a new report.

The Treasury Department’s Inspector General for Tax Administration found that there was about a 50 percent increase in such problems. Much of the difficulty was attributable to questions surrounding the economic stimulus bill, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which was passed in February. The IRS experienced an increase in calls about matters such as adjusted gross income, economic stimulus payments, recovery rebate credits and other tax relief provisions of the legislation.

The IRS also began requiring taxpayers to provide their prior-year AGI for authentication when e-filing their returns this year. That resulted in 4.8 million calls to the IRS from taxpayers requesting the amount of their prior-year AGI.

The recovery rebate credit is available to eligible taxpayers who did not receive an economic stimulus payment in 2008 or who are entitled to an additional payment. In order to determine eligibility for an additional payment in 2009, taxpayers needed to know the amount of the economic stimulus payment they received in 2008. As a result, taxpayers called the IRS customer service lines because they did not retain the documentation or did not remember the amount of their 2008 economic stimulus payment.

“The number of unanswered calls due to taxpayer hang-ups, courtesy disconnects [recorded messages asking callers to call back when call volumes are lower] or busy signals increased to 22.4 million in 2009, compared to 13.8 million in 2008,” said TIGTA Inspector General J. Russell George in a statement. He noted that the number of unanswered calls to the IRS has increased annually since 2006. 

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