An interactive, Web-based tool is helping Internal Revenue Service employees to provide customer-specific tax law responses efficiently and accurately, according to a new government report.
The report, by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, found that the Interactive Tax Law Assistant helps assistors provide accurate answers to taxpayer inquiries, according to 81 percent of assistors surveyed by TIGTA. The assistors rated the Web-based application as user friendly.
The objective of TIGTA’s review was to determine whether the new tool, which has been deployed at IRS walk-in sites and used by IRS telephone assistors, improves the quality of responses and provides assistors with accurate resolutions to taxpayer inquiries.
Out of 610 assistors who responded to a TIGTA survey, more than 73 percent said they were satisfied that the ITLA provides accurate and consistent responses and that it is easy to use. In addition, most assistors favor the new tool over previously used methods.
“Each year, millions of taxpayers call the IRS or walk into a local IRS office to ask tax law questions to help them meet their tax obligations,” said TIGTA Inspector General J. Russell George in a statement. “Anything that will help them receive the accurate information they need in a timely manner is a step in the right direction.”
Prior to the ITLA, accounts management function assistors used the Probe and Response Guide and Field Assistance Office assistors used the Publication Method Guide to assist them in responding to taxpayers’ tax law questions. The IRS converted existing tax law categories from the Probe and Response Guide and Publication Method Guide to create one source for all tax law categories in the ITLA.
TIGTA conducted a survey of accounts management function and Field Assistance Office assistors. TIGTA offered the survey to 1,321 accounts management function assistors and 706 Field Assistance Office assistors; 610 assistors responded (317 accounts management function assistors and 293 Field Assistance Office assistors).
However, only 68 percent of accounts management function assistors and 52 percent of Field Assistance Office assistors said they are satisfied with the overall tax law training received. Only 46 percent of accounts management function assistors and 41 percent of Field Assistance Office assistors rated training as adequately focusing on problem areas.
When discussing the negative responses related to training with IRS managers and employees, they advised TIGTA that the dissatisfaction with Field Assistance Office training could be a result of the office’s delivery method. Because of budget constraints, annual training is conducted by DVD. The accounts management function, with a dissatisfaction rate of 33 percent, conducts its annual training and training for new hires in a classroom environment. The IRS stated it is exploring a variety of options for providing training to its employees.
TIGTA made no recommendations in the report. However, IRS officials reviewed the report and were pleased that TIGTA is acknowledging the positive impact of the ITLA on assistors and taxpayers.
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