After short-sighted funding cuts and a “devastating erosion of taxpayer service” in the last few years, most calls to the IRS for information this year are likely to go unanswered.
That alarming news comes from National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson’s latest report to Congress. She also calls, once again, for elected officials to simplify the tax code — an excellent idea that could both help the economy and encourage more people and businesses to pay the taxes they owe.
Olson warns that the IRS might answer as few as 43 percent of the calls it receives from taxpayers in Fiscal 2015. Even those who get through can expect to wait on hold for an average of at least 30 minutes.
That represents a dramatic decline in service since Fiscal 2004, when the IRS answered 87 percent of calls from taxpayers and hold times averaged only two and half minutes.
Olson says it is unacceptable for the government to tell millions of taxpayers who seek help: “We’re sorry. You’re on your own.”
Despite a rising IRS workload, the agency’s budget has been cut by about 17 percent in inflation-adjusted terms since 2010, Olson said. She also faults the IRS itself for a variety of problems, including lack of a “rigorous methodology” to allocate its resources.
As in the past, Olson urges Congress and the IRS to work together to meet taxpayers’ needs.