Legislative / Regulatory | Taxation

Report takes the ‘service’ out of IRS

Service Your favorite retailer thrives on customer service. I mean, if they don't make you happy, you stop shopping there, right?

The IRS doesn't have that problem. If you're not happy with their service, well, so what? You still have to pay your taxes.

Still, customer service at the IRS remains a big problem -- the biggest problem, in fact, according to National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson.

Olson is required by law to submit to Congress a report each year that outlines the 20 biggest problems facing the IRS.

This year, customer service topped the list, and with good reason: According to Olson, the IRS's goal this year is to answer 71 percent of the calls it receives from taxpayers who have questions about their accounts while keeping callers waiting an average of 12 minutes to speak to a customer service agent.

“In other words, the IRS is planning to be unable to answer about three of every 10 calls it receives,” Olson said. “This level of service is unacceptable."

Unacceptable, but not entirely unexpected.

Still, Olson stopped short of wholesale criticism of the agency, saying that “the IRS, in many respects, has had an extremely successful year.”

Other challenges remain, though -- most notably, from my point of view, the IRS's recently announced proposals to tighten the regulatory reins on tax preparers.

Olson enthusiastically supports the proposals, but says a worrisome loophole might remain: With the exception of CPAs, attorneys and enrolled agents, tax preparers who sign tax returns would have to comply with the proposed IRS rules. But according to Olson, "unenrolled preparers" could, in theory, continue to prepare returns if a third party signed the returns.

Olson recommends that the IRS proposals should apply to all unenrolled non-signing preparers as well.

It will be interesting to see how all of that shakes out. In the meantime, it's kind of a kick to read Olson's annual report and find out what issues we taxpayers should be paying attention to.

What do you think? What's the biggest issue facing the IRS today? Let us know what you think, then check out these tax season resources:


Bill Sheridan