New Service Aims to Cut IRS Phone Call Hold Times

A startup is trying to reduce the amount of time taxpayers spend on hold with the Internal Revenue Service this tax season.

The company, enQ Inc., launched its service last Wednesday. “We call the IRS, and sell our place on hold to our customers,” said Andrew Valiente, founder of the Walnut, Calif.-based company. “This means our customers can cut their hold times when calling the IRS from hours to minutes. While there are similar existing services (for example, Lucy Phone and Fast Customer), both of these options rely on a return call from a customer service agent. We put our customers directly in touch with a customer service agent, without waiting for a return phone call.”

He pointed to a recent Government Accountability Office study that found a declining rate of taxpayer service by the IRS. A GAO report released last month found the IRS provided the lowest level of telephone service in fiscal year 2015 compared to prior years. Only 38 percent of callers who wanted to speak with an IRS assistor were able to reach one. Since 2010, average wait times have almost tripled to over 30 minutes.

An IRS spokesman declined to comment on enQ's plans.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told reporters during a press conference last month that he hopes to improve the rate of callers who get through to the IRS this tax season to 60 percent and to reduce wait times to under 20 minutes, thanks to an extra $290 million in funds that Congress earmarked last December to improve IRS taxpayer service, cybersecurity and identity theft protection (see IRS Expects to Improve Taxpayer Service This Season). He also expects to make the dedicated Practitioner Priority Line for tax professionals more functional.

Valiente said enQ pre-emptively calls the IRS and establishes a line on hold. It then sells the place on hold to customers, so customers spend less time waiting on hold to talk to the IRS. The company also plans to set up similar services for customers who are trying to call the Social Security Administration and tax authorities in the United Kingdom.

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