Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 18 seconds

Enforcement and hiring is down. But something that directly affects taxpayers and professionals alike suffered dramatically during the last tax year—the number of telephone calls answered by the Internal Revenue Service.

The Internal Revenue Service answered only 45 percent of calls on the Practitioner Priority Service phone line, with the average hold time 45 minutes. One practitioner reported waiting six hours to reach telephone assistance, according to the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Council’s 2019 report, released this week.

Less than 50 percent of all calls received by the IRS from January 1 and April 18 were answered.  In addition, the number of calls automatically disconnected skyrocketed during tax season. The report said IRS Accounts Management )telephone lines received about 50 million taxpayer telephone calls. Thirty million were routed to automated systems and about 20 million to individuals answering calls. The IRS considered only 24.1 million were answered.

Also, when lines are overloaded, callers are automatically disconnected. This year, the number of disconnects hit 8.8 million skyrocketed this filing season ,up more than 1,500 percent from about 544,000 in 2014. 

Those problems are part of the continued impact of underfunding of the IRS. That issue remains the top one for the council, which pointed to the fact that funding for fiscal 2018 was lower than in fiscal 2009.

The FY 2020 Budget Request includes a increase of $344 million for funding the agency in four areas: modernization (the IRS Integrated Modernization Business Plan), cybersecurity and identity theft, infrastructure and data analytics. However, the report commented,   “We do not believe that they otherwise sufficiently improve and support the enforcement process (and its decline), a particular focus of the IRSAC’s concerns.”

From FY 2010 through FY 2018, the number of returns filed increased by nine percent while IRS staffing dropped by 22 percent, primarily in compliance and enforcement.

The IRS audited .6 percent of individual returns filed in FY 2018, a 50-percent drop from 1.1 percent in FY 2010. It audited 2.5 percent of all business returns with assets greater than $10, a drop of 50 percent from 5.7 percent of those returns in FY 2010.

Bob Scott
Bob Scott has provided information to the tax and accounting community since 1991, first as technology editor of Accounting Today, and from 1997 through 2009 as editor of its sister publication, Accounting Technology. He is known throughout the industry for his depth of knowledge and for his high journalistic standards.  Scott has made frequent appearances as a speaker, moderator and panelist and events serving tax and accounting professionals. He  has a strong background in computer journalism as an editor with two former trade publications, Computer+Software News and MIS Week and spent several years with weekly and daily newspapers in Morris County New Jersey prior to that.  A graduate of Indiana University with a degree in journalism, Bob is a native of Madison, Ind
Last modified on Wednesday, 27 November 2019
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