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Are tax controversies the result of poor IRS customer service?

Individuals hoping to avoid a tax controversy or dispute may affirmatively reach out to the Internal Revenue Service with questions. Yet a recent article questions the efficacy of this proactive approach.

Specifically, the article alleges that the IRS hung up on taxpayers calling for help a shocking number of times: around 8.8 million times. In its defense, the IRS may not always have been intentionally rude. According to a recent report to Congress, the IRS phone system is overloaded, and it may automatically hang up on a caller when there are no personnel available to answer the phone.

Yet what accounts for the large increase in such hang-ups from last year, when only 544,000 callers were disconnected? There may be several explanations. First, an increasing number of callers may have been concerned about new issues, such as identity theft or tax issues raised by the newly implemented Affordable Care Act.

In addition, the IRS is facing budgetary demands. To help with the transition of implementing the new laws, the agency transferred about $133 million from its taxpayer services division to another account dedicated to systems programming. That left fewer resources to answer taxpayer calls. At the same time, Congress has reduced the IRS’ budget by around 17 percent since 2010.

An IRS spokesperson confirmed that the agency remains committed to a dual purpose of taxpayer service and tax law enforcement. Yet without an attorney’s help, it seems that many taxpayers’ questions may have gone unanswered. 

A well-thought-out course of action can go a long way toward avoiding IRS problems. My law firm focuses on tax law, including proactive tax advice. My experience as an auditor and forensic accountant can also be useful in proposing creative solutions to IRS problems. Finally, considering that some taxpayers may have unintentionally made a tax error due to the new laws and inability to get through with a phone call to the IRS, I can negotiate with the IRS for an optimal outcome. 

Source: Washington Post, “The IRS hung up on taxpayers 8.8 million times this year. And there’s more bad news about customer service,” Lisa Rein, July 16, 2015

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