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SF #04: UNDERSTANDING TAXPAYER NEEDS AND PREFERENCES

To ensure that the IRS designs its Current and Future State initiatives based on actual taxpayer needs and preferences, the IRS must actively and directly engage with the taxpayer populations it serves as well as undertake a robust research agenda that furthers an understanding of taxpayer compliance.

TAS Recommendations and IRS Responses

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SPECIAL FOCUS #4-1

The IRS, in collaboration with the National Taxpayer Advocate, undertake a comprehensive study of taxpayer needs and preferences by taxpayer segment, utilizing telephone, online, and mail surveys, focus groups, town halls, public forums, and research studies. These initiatives should be designed to solicit taxpayer needs and preferences, and not be biased by the IRS’s own desired direction.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: The IRS, in collaboration with the NTA, has undertaken a comprehensive effort to catalog an extensive listing of taxpayer needs and preferences studies by taxpayer segment, identifying telephone, online, and mail surveys, focus groups, town halls, public forums, and other relevant research studies. These initiatives are designed to solicit taxpayer needs and preferences, and not be biased by the IRS’s own desired direction.

The IRS has formed the Taxpayer Experience Coordinating Council (TECC), whose membership includes the Taxpayer Advocate. The TECC is a collaboration led jointly by RAAS, W&I and OLS with membership from all taxpayer-facing units. It was initiated to identify all IRS efforts over time to gain insights about taxpayers’ needs and preferences, such as various surveys, including those conducted by the IRS Oversight Board, conjoint analyses, other TAB and TAS efforts. The compilation was done for the purpose of understanding more about the taxpayer’s experience.

The impetus for the entire Future State pursuit is to improve the taxpayer’s experience. All of the TECC efforts under way help IRS senior leadership determine if the IRS is on the right track to serve the taxpayers from the taxpayers’ perspective. The TECC efforts will be built upon to identify current and additional ways to understand taxpayer needs and preferences. TECC and IRS leadership will continue to ask if IRS is adequately understanding taxpayers’ perspective. In addition, collaboration and information sharing between bodies such as the TECC, Community of Practice, and behavioral research groups collectively will continue to produce valuable insights about the taxpayer experience. This collective intelligence is helpful to IRS senior leadership in determining whether the taxpayer experience is improving as Future State initiatives are implemented.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: The National Taxpayer Advocate appreciates the IRS’s efforts and commitment to continue to work with our office to gain a better understanding of taxpayer needs and preferences. We emphasize only that this undertaking must drill deeply to be meaningful. For example, it will be of limited value to determine that X percent of taxpayers are able and willing to use the Internet and Y percent of taxpayers are not. Taxpayers may be willing to use the internet for certain purposes (e.g., to get a form or to check refund status) but may be reluctant or unwilling to use the Internet for other purposes (e.g., to resolve an audit or an identity-theft problem). We look forward to working with the IRS to help flesh out these important nuances and obtain the necessary information to make intelligent decisions. TAS has already conducted important surveys identifying the needs and preferences of U.S. taxpayers nationwide, as well as subcategories including low income taxpayers (who constitute 46 percent of all individual taxpayers) and Hispanic taxpayers. The IRS would do well to study our research results carefully and incorporate them into their “Future State” planning.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

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SPECIAL FOCUS #4-2

Congress require the IRS and the National Taxpayer Advocate to jointly report on the results of this comprehensive study through a re-invigorated TAB.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION:

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: N/A

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Congressional

OPEN or CLOSED: Congressional

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

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