Taxpayer Advocate’s Report and Level of Service Predictions
The Taxpayer Advocate’s Annual Report to Congress, made January 14, 2015, assesses IRS performance on taxpayer rights and identifies the most serious problems encountered by taxpayers. Pursuant to those identified performance issues, the report also makes legislative recommendations.
The report itself is brimming with fascinating data and insight into the workings of the IRS, but some of the most jaw-dropping statistics come in the preface, regarding the “devastating erosion of taxpayer service.”
First, looking back to 2014: these figures are so startling when it comes to taxpayer (and practitioner) service that we lay out here in red the odds that your phone call or piece of correspondence will not be handled properly:
(Source: National Taxpayer Advocate Annual Report to Congress 2014, pg. viii-ix)
More than 1 in 3 calls are not answered, and 1 in 2 pieces of correspondence are not handled timely. The average caller or correspondent in 2014 had about a 42% chance of poor IRS service.
The preface goes on to say that initial projections had 54% level of service in 2015 with respect to calls—i.e. 46% of taxpayers not reaching a representative. But with 2015 appropriation taken into account, the new level of service prediction is 43 percent–in other words, a Service where 57 percent of callers are not reaching representatives. The mail prediction is not expressed as a percentage, but it is explicit that the Service will be able to handle less mail in a timely manner than in 2014 (i.e. more than 50% not handled timely).
So taxpayers and practitioners can look forward to a 2015 in which a call or correspondence with the IRS is more likely than not to be unanswered or backlogged.
This only scratches the surface of the problems caused by the slashed budget and lack of administrative and congressional oversight addressed in the report, which states that the above problems are a direct violation of several of the rights listed in Taxpayer Bill of Rights adopted in 2014: specifically, “the right to quality service” and the overarching “right to a fair and just tax system.” This series will continue as we look ahead to what to expect from 2015 at the IRS vis-à-vis taxpayer rights and the realities of interacting with several different Service units.