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IRS Boosts Customer Service, But Needs More Funding

The IRS has dramatically improved its customer service from the terrible days at the end of the Obama administration, but advocates of the agency say it still needs more money if it’s to set itself on firmer footing for the long haul.

As of last month, as the annual tax filing deadline neared, the agency was answering about 78 percent of the calls to the agency’s main toll-free assistance line — in line with last year’s levels and a significant improvement from the 38 percent rate in 2015.

The average call is also answered in 6 minutes, according to a Treasury inspector general’s report released this week — down dramatically from a more than 30 minute wait that greeted the average caller over the course of 2015.

Tony Reardon, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union, pointed directly to a $290 million boost for the agency — including $178 million for taxpayer services — in a December 2015 spending bill as the reason for the better service levels.

He said the additional funding has led to the hiring of more temporary telephone operators, which also cuts down on wait times.

“It is clear that additional funding has a positive effect on helping taxpayers who have questions,” Mr. Reardon said.

The agency has pushed for better service after being blasted for its poor record in the past — though IRS leaders say they do have to make choices between spending on better cybersecurity, combatting identity theft and improving customer relations.

“Taxpayer service is very important,” acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter said earlier this year. “When we put the budget together, in a finite world you have to make some decisions.”

He said the public can expect the higher levels of service to tick back down if the agency doesn’t get enough money going forward.

The recently passed $1.3 trillion…

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