IRS Customer Service Audit

The two things you can be sure of in life are, as the saying goes, death and taxes.  As for the taxes, they are apparently unavoidable on many different levels.  If it’s not the payment of taxes, it’s the waiting on hold with the IRS to get answers to your tax questions.  It has become a fact of life and, as a tax relief attorney, I think I have accepted it.

Wanna see what I’m talking about?  Click here for IRS phone numbers.  Enjoy!

The average wait time has increased every year since 2007.  According to a recent TIGTA audit, IRS average telephone hold times were up to 10 minutes during the 2011 filing season.

During that same timeframe, the IRS achieved a 74.6 percent level of service. Doesn’t sound too impressive until you realize that their goal was 71 percent. So, yes, the IRS surpassed its goal, but you’re probably wondering why they are not setting their sights a little higher.  Well, the answer given by TIGTA is the same tired old problem of limited resources and increased demand. And what exactly is the “level of service” measurement anyway? It’s actually a comparison of the total number of taxpayers who attempt to call the toll-free telephone lines (a whopping 80 million during the 2011 filing season) and the number of taxpayers who actually gain access to the system and are placed in the IRS queue. Certainly a big percentage of the callers hang up before connecting, I know I have more than once.

One bright spot, in my opinion, is the “Estimated Wait Time Message” feature that was implemented for the first time a few years ago. What this does is it helps me to decide if I want to hang up and try again when the call volume is lower. It is actually very helpful, and I have noticed that the estimates are usually pretty accurate.

Nobody likes waiting on hold, but if you consider the massive volume of calls that come in to the IRS each day, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have to “take a number.”  I think the hold times would be even easier to swallow if, when you finally did connect with a representative, you were greeted by a somebody with solid customer service skills.  It’s the whole quality vs. quantity issue.  But I guess that’s for another day and outside the scope of this particular audit.

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