The IRS as usual is patting its own back on how great they did customer service-wise during the 2019 tax season. The National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) recently released its Annual Report to Congress and as is every year the reviews are mixed but today’s blog is to introduce the IRS’ customer service platforms, should you need customer service.
REINFORCING THE BASICS.
What is customer service? It is taking care of taxpayers’ needs by providing professional and helpful high-quality assistance before during and after the taxpayer’s requirements are met. Those requirements being taxpayers self-report their income annually and submit income tax payments.
What is an assistor? An IRS customer service rep.
During the 2018 tax year the IRS had 73,519 full-time employees (FTEs) about a 4% decrease from the 2017 tax year total of 76,832. There are less revenue agents and officers, less tax examiners and technicians, less special agents, less attorneys, and less appeals officers. But there are a couple of hundred more customer service reps. Depending on which side of tax return honesty you fall on determines whether this is good news, bad news, or just no news to you. Last year the IRS processed 250.3 million tax returns, of which more than 155 million were 1040s. Now think of each return as a customer.
This is such a fun fact. In 2019, corporate America spent 1,286 training dollars per learner, the IRS – $616.
IRS Notices/Correspondence. You can write an old-fashioned letter (paper correspondence) and snail mail it to the IRS. Most of these letters are in response to IRS requests for information, giving the IRS even more information, or disagreeing with them about something (taxpayer dispute). IRS assistors answer these letters which also include procedural questions, amended returns, and duplicate filings. The goal is to answer each letter within 45 days. Day 46, if unanswered, your correspondence becomes “overage”. The IRS received 6.9 million pieces of correspondence in FY 2019.
The NTA, (in short IRS watchdog for taxpayers), reports the IRS had a corresponding 52.3% overage, up over 15% from the previous year. That is 3,608,700 pieces of unanswered mail. Holy heck, where do they put it all?
Online Services. The IRS Website
You can do a number of things online. View your account, get your tax record/transcript, make a payment, make a payment plan, check your refund status, check on an amended return, and get tax forms and instructions.
Last year there were 264 million inquiries to “Where’s My Refund?” and 208,000 of those inquiries were made from mobile devices. Spotting the trend, the IRS is continuing its IRS2Go mobile app; its users increased 17% in 2019.
There is a ton of information on the website and we do mean a ton. The “Frequently Asked Questions and Answers Search” and “The Interactive Tax Assistant Search” are great tools to find answers to questions and navigate through topics and categories:
Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) or Public Law 11597. Of course, the IRS has been worried about the broad scope and complexity of the law and all there is to mess up by us and them and which includes extensive changes to tax forms, publications, and computer systems. Work on implementation is ongoing. Information and help in filing your returns can be found here: TCJA Help.
Telephone Service. Phone operators will assist callers year-round with obtaining account information and answering basic tax law questions. The telephone service also has recorded tax information and a bunch of automated services. You can call them up and find out the status of your refund, how much you owe, and a bunch of other stuff.
If you ever wondered why the IRS isn’t answering your call; you are not the only one. In 2019, the IRS received 99.3 million calls. This is a decrease from what had been a yearly average of 107 million. And get this, answered 28.6% of them. On the Consolidated Automated Collection System line, assistors answered about 31 percent of calls, and the average wait time was about 38 minutes. Calls from taxpayers calling the Installment Agreement/Balance Due line to make payment arrangements because they could not pay in full, were answered about 26% of the time, and wait times averaged about 45 minutes.
Currently, their website says 15-minute wait time during tax season and 27-minutes the rest of the year. We all know that’s fake news because we all know someone who has said they were on hold for 45 minutes or an hour, or even longer. To amuse yourself while on hold we recommend streaming impeachment speeches or even old episodes of American Horror Story because well, isn’t that what dealing with the IRS is.
This is super important to know: The IRS will NEVER, NEVER, NEVER call you up on the phone out of the blue. And they will NEVER, NEVER, NEVER text you. NEVER, EVER!
If you are calling about your own account make sure you have all this stuff ready: Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number; birthdate, filing status, last year’s tax return, the return you are calling about, and any notices the IRS sent you. It would really suck to have to call back.
Disaster or Combat Zone Special Hotline 866-562-5227
Individual 800-829-1040 (Cute!)
Refund Hotline 800-825-1954
Visits to Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) (The Last Resort). Fortunately, nearly every tax challenge we have can be resolved either by correspondence, online or by telephone. If all else fails and you have to go in person, use this cool IRS tool to find out where to go, office hours, and to schedule an appointment. For an added bonus, the local telephone number is provided too. Taxpayer Assistance Center Office Locator.
In FY 2019 2.3 million taxpayers visited a total of 324 TACs. Visits are appointment only but don’t be discouraged. 57% of the time your calls to schedule an appointment were answered.
WHAT ELSE SHOULD I KNOW?
- The IRS is required to pay interest on amended return refunds if not processed within 45 days.
- Telephone service wait times tend to be higher on Monday and Tuesday, during President’s Day weekend, and of course, right around the April filing deadline.
- The training amount of $616 includes focuses on customer service AND empathy!
- Our client service is so much better than the IRS’ customer service. So. Call Carol First!
email@example.com OR 727-327-1999.
We’ll be back next week. In the meantime, be sure to check us out on Facebook and Twitter.
McAtee and Associates’ Disclaimer:
Our blog is intended for educational and awareness purposes. The general information provided about taxes, accounting, and business-related topics is by no means intended to provide or constitute professional advice. Reading our blog does not create a Client/CPA relationship between you and us. The blog, including all contents posted by the author(s) as well as comments posted by visitors, should not be used as a substitute for professional advice or as a substitute for communicating with a competent, human professional.
Our blog posts are written using current information and current or proposed rules and regulations. Information becomes old and outdated. Rules and regulations are frequently changed, added, amended, and/or left to expire. This is extremely true with most things tax and to a lesser and slower extent, most things accounting. We usually do not go back and update posted blogs. Always check with your CPA or accountant regarding not only rules and regulations but available options and how it all applies to your fact pattern and you.