The Internal Revenue Service is asking tax professionals to refrain from directing their clients to call the IRS’s e-help desk, saying that it is causing longer hold times on the phone line, which is only supposed to be used by practitioners.

“Each filing season, the e-help desk receives phone calls from taxpayers because their tax preparer referred them for assistance resolving rejected returns, tax law and tax account matters,” said the IRS in an email to tax professionals Monday. “This increases the taxpayer’s burden and causes lengthier delays for everyone. The e-help desk cannot help these callers and must direct them to other sources for assistance—typically including Publication 5136, IRS Services Guide.”

The IRS pointed out that the e-help desk is intended specifically to assist tax professionals, such as enrolled agents, reporting agents, electronic return originators and CPAs, with non-account related questions and issues concerning electronic products. “They do not provide support to individual taxpayers experiencing e-filing issues,” the IRS pointed out.

Tax practitioners may be directing their clients to the e-Help desk because it has become more difficult than ever to reach a live person on the IRS’s customer service phone lines for taxpayers. Thanks to budget cuts at the agency over the past five years, IRS employees have been able to answer less than 40 percent of the calls that the agency receives (see Declining IRS Workforce Leaving Calls Unanswered).

Taxpayers have also been forced to wait on long lines outside the IRS’s Taxpayer Assistance Centers in different parts of the country when they try to get help in person.

Congress has slashed the IRS budget by a total of $1.2 billion since fiscal year 2011. The IRS reports that it is now at its lowest level of funding since 2008. The number of IRS employees assigned to answer taxpayer telephone calls fell from 9,400 in fiscal year 2010 to 6,900 in FY 2014—a 26 percent decline. Overall, the IRS has lost more than 18,000 full- and part-time employees since 2011.

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