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MSP #2: TELEPHONE AND IN-PERSON SERVICE

Taxpayers Face Significant Difficulty Reaching IRS Representatives Due to Outdated Information Technology and Insufficient Staffing

TAS Recommendations and IRS Responses

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1.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #2-1

Prioritize expanding customer callback technology to relieve taxpayers of the frustration associated with long hold times and low levels of service.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: The IRS agrees expanding customer callback technology on the toll-free telephone lines will relieve taxpayer burden of waiting in a live queue for an available customer service representative and can also help improve the level of service by reducing call abandons and retries. In FY 2019, the IRS began a multi-year, phased initiative to deploy customer callback technology as part of the IRS Modernization Plan by piloting customer callback technology on one telephone line. The IRS expanded the technology to five telephone lines in FY 2019 and to sixteen telephone lines in FY 2021 to offer the service to more taxpayers. The IRS is also upgrading the call center infrastructure as part of the overall strategy to expand the customer callback option and, based upon available funding, reach our goal of an optimal use of the technology by the end of FY 2024.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: The IRS is upgrading the call center infrastructure as part of the overall strategy to expand the customer callback option and, based upon available funding, reach our goal of an optimal use of the technology by the end of FY 2024.

TAS RESPONSE: It is encouraging that the IRS has agreed to implement our recommendation. We look forward to working with the IRS as it expands customer callback technology.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Open

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): 9/30/2024

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2.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #2-2

Provide taxpayers with the option of receiving face-to-face service through videoconferencing technology. The IRS’s use of this technology was restricted during the initial months of the pandemic due to limited bandwidth, which the IRS must address as it further incorporates this technology into its operations.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: The IRS plans to implement the recommendation of using face-to-face services as widely as possible, based upon available funding and other considerations. The recent IRS report to Congress on the Taxpayer First Act aligns with this recommendation in envisioning a seamless taxpayer experience, including integration of digital, telephone, and face-to-face channels. If additional resources are made available and security requirements to protect taxpayer data can be met, we will be able to implement this important vision.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: The IRS plans to implement the recommendation of using face-to-face services as widely as possible, based upon available funding and other considerations. The recent IRS report to Congress on the Taxpayer First Act aligns with this recommendation in envisioning a seamless taxpayer experience, including integration of digital, telephone, and face-to-face channels. If additional resources are made available and security requirements to protect taxpayer data can be met, we will be able to implement this important vision.

TAS RESPONSE: We appreciate the IRS’s agreement and understand that funding limitations will impact the ability to meet this recommendation. Videoconference technology will play an important role in providing a seamless taxpayer experience. Pursuing this option as a priority will benefit the taxpayer experience through improved quality service.

Update: There is a similar recommendation in the 2021 Digital Communications MSP. IRS will send TAS a response to the 2021 recommendations toward the end of April 2022. TAS will review that response and see if it allows us to close or update this recommendation.

Update 2: This is very similar to 2021 recommendation 7-10 which has a due date of 3/31/2024. Will work these together.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Open

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): 3/31/2024

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3.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #2-3

Continue to explore alternative telephonic support by developing an automated telephone tool designed to complete specific software-based tasks and/or voice chatbot. Either system could handle routine questions or tasks which would free up CSRs for those individuals who have more complex issues or have a need to speak with a human.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: The IRS agrees alternative telephone support utilizing self-service automated responses to frequently asked questions (FAQs) is desirable to free up customer service representatives for more complex issues. For example, the IRS has already developed several self-service tools to assist with the extremely high telephone demand associated with Economic Impact Payments (EIPs), including an Economic Impact Payment Center webpage with FAQs and the capability for taxpayers who establish an account on IRS.gov/account to view the amount of the EIP they received when preparing their 2020 return so they can reconcile any EIP received with the allowable amount.

The IRS has also been exploring natural language technology to help address the high EIP telephone traffic by utilizing intelligent automation to understand the caller’s request and provide responses from a database of approved responses. We have also been working on a conversational artificial intelligence voice and chat bot that will address routine collection issues through self-help options.

On May 5, 2021, IRS deployed a voicebot tech demo/pilot, called Assisted Intelligence Voice Response (AIVR), on the Economic Impact Payment toll-free line. This voicebot utilizes a knowledge base of FAQs for EIP III, Recovery Rebate Credit, and the Get my Payment web application to provide automated self-service with callers on general and procedural information. From May 5, 2021, to June 23, 2021, the AIVR has interacted with over 718,000 callers with an average 45 percent resolution rate.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: The IRS has also been exploring natural language technology to help address the high EIP telephone traffic by utilizing intelligent automation to understand the caller’s request and provide responses from a database of approved responses. We have also been working on a conversational artificial intelligence voice and chat bot that will address routine collection issues through self-help options.

TAS RESPONSE: It is encouraging that the IRS has agreed to implement our recommendation. We look forward to learning about progress made in this area and working with the IRS in implementing the alternative telephone support.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

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

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4.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #2-4

Continue to explore the feasibility of incorporating and providing incentives for partner sites to implement the use of videoconferencing software into the VITA and TCE programs.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: The IRS has implemented a strategy to ensure that all available videoconferencing platforms, including virtual assistance, are available for partner use to deliver critical tax preparation services to taxpayers while balancing the security of taxpayer information during the 2021 filing season and beyond.

For example, the IRS conducted overseas military VITA training virtually for the 2021 filing season using two web-based platforms, ZoomGov and WebEx. Use of the videoconferencing technologies allowed 17 instructors to provide training to 16 military bases located in Europe and Asia. In comparison, five instructors traveled overseas to conduct training at 10 military bases for the 2020 filing season. Not only was the IRS able to deliver the training to more sites using the virtual platforms, we were able to save approximately $45,000 in travel costs. Using these platforms allowed instructors to share presentations, and both instructors and students were able to share their screens to show inputs for mock scenarios within the simulated VITA/TCE learning environment in the TaxSlayer Practice Lab.

The IRS also developed a new Publication 5450, 2021 VITA/TCE Site Operations for partners and volunteers that provides guidance to face-to-face partners for alternative strategies for preparing tax returns virtually to support taxpayers in filing their returns on time. Publication 5450 also provides guidance for partners to highlight the availability of videoconferencing in their Virtual VITA/TCE Plan (Form 15273) and Virtual VITA/TCE Taxpayer Consent Form (Form 14446).

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: It is encouraging that the IRS has agreed to implement our recommendation. We stand ready to work with the IRS in expanding accessibility for taxpayers and raising awareness about availability at VITA and TCE partner sites.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

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

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5.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #2-5

Ensure meaningful performance measures for existing and/or newly emerging telephone, online, and in-person assistance methods to objectively measure customer service.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: The IRS uses a suite of performance, quality, and feedback measures that are presented in a multi-channel performance dashboard that includes historical performance, current year performance, and planned performance. These measures include elements such as wait times, level of service, and accuracy for toll-free and face-to-face services.

The IRS is implementing the Taxpayer First Act (TFA), which calls for transformational changes in the way the IRS serves its stakeholders and performs its operations. While the IRS continues to modernize its websites and services, it does so in the service of these larger strategic initiatives. The IRS also collaborates with other agencies, such as the Social Security Administration and Department of Education, and with industry, including tax preparers, our Security Summit partners, and financial institutions, where customer experience journeys overlap. The approach for most new TFA measures is to develop and test the measure in FY 2021, create a baseline standard to serve as a comparison or control in FY 2022, and set the target for FY 2023. The customer experience measures developed for the taxpayer experience strategy will report on a suite of cross-functional experience measures.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: The IRS is implementing the Taxpayer First Act (TFA), which calls for transformational changes in the way the IRS serves its stakeholders and performs its operations. While the IRS continues to modernize its websites and services, it does so in the service of these larger strategic initiatives. The IRS also collaborates with other agencies, such as the Social Security Administration and Department of Education, and with industry, including tax preparers, our Security Summit partners, and financial institutions, where customer experience journeys overlap. The approach for most new TFA measures is to develop and test the measure in FY 2021, create a baseline standard to serve as a comparison or control in FY 2022, and set the target for FY 2023. The customer experience measures developed for the taxpayer experience strategy will report on a suite of cross-functional experience measures.

TAS RESPONSE: It is encouraging to see agreement in ensuring meaningful performance measures in this area. Meaningful, objective measurements will ensure that the IRS is improving the taxpayer experience.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Open

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): 9/30/2023

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