Popular search terms:

MSP #3: Navigating the IRS

Taxpayers Have Difficulty Navigating the IRS, Reaching the Right Personnel to Resolve Their Tax Issues, and Holding IRS Employees Accountable

TAS Recommendations and IRS Responses

1
1.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #3-1

Provide all members of the general public with an accessible and easily searchable IRS directory that incorporates metadata and common-speech terminology to assist taxpayers in contacting particular offices within the IRS.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: We don’t agree that providing a directory is the best solution for taxpayers attempting to contact the IRS. Rather than customers trying to track down one specific employee, who may not be available, they can, in most situations, receive the help they need from the “first available” employee. Many employees split their time between answering toll free calls and working amended returns or other correspondence received by the IRS. A telephone assister uses online tools to list pertinent information about a call, so that this information is available to the next assister if the taxpayer calls in again, preventing the caller from having to repeat information. The IRS continues to provide service through a balanced approach to educate and inform each taxpayer as to the  variety of service options and channels. Our website, IRS.gov, includes a taxpayer contact page, “Let Us Help You,” which provides a wealth of information about service options with specific guidance based on tax issues and telephone numbers.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: Situations exist in which taxpayers or their representatives have a need to contact key offices or personnel. The IRS’s continued refusal to facilitate this direct communication, and, in the case of some units, its unwillingness to implement public-facing phone numbers hinders the ability of taxpayers to navigate the IRS in a consistent and effective way. The steps outlined in the IRS response above are worthwhile and TAS applauds them. However, the IRS mechanisms currently in place should not serve to nullify the ability of taxpayers to seek direct contact when necessary. Further, the more effective the systems for assisting taxpayers, the less of a need taxpayers will have to seek the direct contact being discouraged by the IRS. Rather, the IRS should provide taxpayers with access to the necessary contact information via a searchable database while, if so desired, simultaneously striving to minimize the need for its use.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Not Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

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

2
2.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #3-2

Institute a 311-type system where taxpayers can be transferred by an operator to the specific office within the IRS that is responsible for their cases.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: ​As above, we continue to provide service through a variety of channels, including our website, IRS.gov, and its taxpayer contact page, “Let Us Help You.” In addition, taxpayers who receive IRS correspondence are provided a specific telephone number to call to discuss their issue.

On the toll-free lines, to provide customers with efficient and accurate tax law and account assistance, the IRS uses automation when appropriate to connect a taxpayer with an assister who has the skill set to provide the necessary service. If the taxpayer’s issue falls outside the automated choices, the call is answered by a Screener employee. Screeners perform the role of an “operator” by determining the taxpayer’s issue and then transferring the call to the appropriate area. A 311 system may work for smaller government entities that have a limited scope of departments or service options. The extensive scope of IRS tax law and account topics does not lend itself to this type of system.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: As explained by the National Taxpayer Advocate, one way of addressing sometimes differing taxpayer communication preferences, remedying occasionally frustrating IRS computer interactions, and helping taxpayers better navigate the IRS is through the utilization of a 311-type  system. This 311 system can fit within a comprehensive omnichannel environment that utilizes customer experience mapping and customer journey analytics now employed in private industry. Such a service channel would facilitate increased efficiencies, diminished wait times, and improved interactions between taxpayers and appropriate IRS personnel. It has been used by cities as large as New York and Chicago, and these models can be combined with advances in customer journey analytics to develop a robust 311-type system that could be used IRS-wide or more  narrowly with respect to targeted areas. To the extent that such a system is implemented, it would help taxpayers more easily reach their desired destination within the IRS and would improve taxpayers’ overall experiences.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Not Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

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

3
3.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #3-3

Adopt a model for correspondence examinations and similar cases, such as those worked in ACS, in which a single employee is assigned to the case while it is open within the IRS function.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: Taxpayer responses to correspondence examination notices are assigned to an examiner when received, and, in almost all cases, the same employee continues to work the case through closure. Additionally, to provide increased access for taxpayers to resolve their account in Campus Examination, all examiners within the specific business operating division have access to the taxpayer’s case history, workpapers, notices, and audit report(s), which allows the examiners to sufficiently address the information requested on most calls.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: In many circumstances, a single employee or group of employees should be assigned to the taxpayer’s case. This approach, which could be applicable to compliance cases and offers in compromise in addition to correspondence examinations, would make navigating the IRS a much easier process and lessen the frequency with which it is necessary. It would have the added benefit of increasing the quality of interactions between taxpayers and IRS personnel through case familiarity and the increased trust that typically results from ongoing interaction. While the “next available examiner” model may be effective in certain contexts, it fails to deliver the range of benefits associated with a single point of contact for ongoing examinations.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Partially Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

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

4
4.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #3-4

Establish a complaint and inquiry tracker that monitors and records requests to speak with supervisors, subsequent follow-up, and the results of that contact.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: While systemic data collection tools do not exist for the collection of this data, we have implemented processes to record this  information. Each case file history is documented to reflect taxpayer requests to speak with supervisors, any subsequent follow-up actions, and the results of each contact. Each case is then subject to review by the manager, lead tax technician, and national quality reviewers.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: The IRS does have guidance addressing the handling of taxpayer complaints and, in some cases, does analyze response times. Likewise, the inclusion in case files of complaint-related information and subsequent follow-up is beneficial.  However, taxpayer complaints, the reasons they are made, and the quality of responses they generate are not tracked in such a way that they can be systematically analyzed to encourage accountability and improved performance. To facilitate accountability, the IRS should create a comprehensive system through which taxpayers can ask to speak with managers and that tracks whether the manager contacts the taxpayer, how quickly the contact is made, what the issue is, and how the issue is addressed. A key element of this mechanism should be a tracker that has the capacity to allow for systemic review of complaints and responses, which will enable meaningful oversight of organizational activity and individual performance.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Not Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

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

en English
X