President Donald Trump’s budget proposal will result in severely limited telephone assistance from the Internal Revenue Service during next year’s tax season, The Washington Post reports.
During a hearing with the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government last week, IRS acting commissioner David Kautter admitted that the IRS phone line that taxpayers can call for assistance can only support "60, 65 percent" of the callers "under the budget that’s been submitted," according to the Post.
The ranking Democrat on the panel, Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, asked Kautter if the level of service for the phone line would "continue to be 80 percent this coming filing season," to which Kautter said, "under the budget that’s been submitted, it would be less than 80 percent… probably be in the 60 — 60, 65 percent range."
Coons replied, "So about 40 percent of Americans who call looking for assistance, given a sweeping tax code reform — the biggest in 30 years — about 40 percent wouldn’t get an answer?"
The senator did not wait for Kautter’s reply.
"The IRS needs to improve its online, telephone, and in-person services, and it needs to make vast improvements in its technology, which will improve both taxpayer service and compliance activities," national taxpayer advocate Nina Olson, whose office is an independent organization within the IRS, told the Post in an email. "For example, the IRS has one of the few major call centers in the federal government without customer callback technology when hold times are long."
Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, told Congress in a statement that because of cuts in service, the agency has seen "a drastic reduction in the number of Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) from 21,057 in 2010 to 9,209 in 2017, a 56 percent drop," while the number of individual taxpayers increased by 10 million.
"NTEU knows any further reductions in funding and staffing will further exacerbate the adverse impact previous cuts have had on IRS’s ability to provide taxpayers with the service they need and enforcement of our nation’s tax laws," he added. "We believe that in order to continue to make improvements in taxpayer services while handling a growing workload and increasing collections, it is imperative to reverse the severe cuts in IRS staffing levels and begin providing adequate resources to meet these challenges."
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