In her preface to the report, the National Taxpayer Advocate praised the IRS for a generally successful filing season, but indicated that taxpayers who require assistance from the IRS are continuing to face significant challenges obtaining service. While taxpayer services and enforcement activities are both essential for effective tax administration, the National Taxpayer Advocate says taxpayer services require more emphasis than they are currently receiving. She points out that more than 60 percent of the IRS budget is allocated to enforcement activities while only about 4 percent is allocated for taxpayer outreach and education. The report elaborates on taxpayer service limitations, particularly involving outreach and education:
“As of September 30, 2016, the IRS dedicated only 98 employees to conducting education and outreach to the 62 million small business and self-employed taxpayers, and only 365 employees to conducting education and outreach to the nearly 125 million individual taxpayers. There are 14 states that have no Stakeholder Liaison employees who conduct outreach to small business and self-employed taxpayers. The number of TACs is declining each year, and because of the IRS’s new appointment-only system, taxpayers who show up without an appointment are routinely turned away. The TACs have completely stopped offering free tax preparation for low income, elderly, and disabled taxpayers and . . . [they] will not answer “out-of-scope” tax law questions during the filing season and will not answer any tax law questions outside the filing season.”
The National Taxpayer Advocate recommends that the IRS expand its outreach and education activities and improve its telephone service and that Congress provide the IRS with sufficient funding to do so.