This tax season can easily be considered to be “difficult” for taxpayers. After the additional Affordable Care Act (ACA) filing requirements for employees and employers, return filers are also facing extended wait-time on IRS phone lines when they want questions answered.
That is no surprise though. The IRS Commissioner John Koskinen had predicted it at the end of 2014. He stated that the 2015 tax season “will be one of the most complicated filing seasons we’ve ever had. All we can do is try to maximize our services as well as we can; as well as we can is still going to be miserable. You really do get what you pay for.” The IRS’ budget was cut down even when they had already been complaining of lack of funds for some time.
The National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson had feared that this tax season would be “the worst filing season”. Now, she testified that the taxpayers are getting “the worst levels of taxpayer service” from the IRS since records began in 2001. The IRS had earlier clarified that due to the budget cuts, essential services to taxpayers would be affected. This included the average time taxpayers would be expected to wait on phone lines when they call the IRS. This tax season, the average hold time is 30 minutes or longer.
The picture is bleak. Nina Olson says that from January 1 to February 14, “the IRS answered only 43 percent of the calls it received from taxpayers, and those who managed to get through waited on hold for an average of about 28 minutes. By comparison, 77 percent of taxpayers got through and waited on hold an average of about 10 minutes during the same period last year.”
Even though the IRS can easily be targeted for lack of services, it should be noted that they have been asking the government for more funds for months. To cut down on expenditures, they made many important functions automated. Now, after the budget cut, they are unable to meet some of the essential services to taxpayers. Nina Olson says that the IRS needs funding “to hire more customer service employees to answer taxpayers’ telephone calls, process taxpayers’ correspondence in a timely manner, and assist taxpayers who seek assistance at its walk-in sites.”
The IRS, however, will need to prove that it can keep up its reputation and use those funds responsibly to serve taxpayers. With effective budgeting, prioritizing and management, the IRS can make the best use of the funds it has.