More Than Half Of All Taxpayer Calls To The IRS Could Go Unanswered This Year

Seeking tax preparation help from the Internal Revenue Service this year might be a futile test of patience, as the agency’s taxpayer advocate predicts services for taxpayers are likely to drop to the worst levels in more than a decade.

The New York Times reports that as the agency’s workload has risen over the last several years, its resources have plummeted, creating a decidedly unhelpful environment for taxpayers.

Nina Olsen, head of the agency’s Taxpayer Advocate Services, predicts in her annual report [PDF] released this week that consumers will have a much more difficult time getting answers to tax preparation questions from the agency this year.

She warns that the agency might end up answering fewer than 43% of the more than 100 million phone calls it’s expected to receive from taxpayers this fiscal year.

But if you’re one of the lucky callers to get through to the agency don’t expect it to be a quick situation, as Olson estimates taxpayers to be placed on hold for an average of 30 minutes.

What’s more, if the caller has been waiting too long, the agency will implement a “courtesy disconnect,” also known as hanging up, the Times reports.

The rather dismal figures represent a decline from last year’s rates, which recorded 61% of calls answered and an average wait time of 18 minutes.

“Taxpayers who need help are not getting it, and tax compliance is likely to suffer over the longer term if these problems are not quickly and decisively addressed,” Olson wrote in her report.

In all, the IRS works with about 200 million Americans each tax season, a load that has become increasingly difficult to handle with fewer resources at its disposal.

In the last four years, the agency’s budget has been slashed by 17% and its work force reduced by nearly 12,000.

Olson says in her report that such cuts have “brought about a devastating erosion of taxpayer service, harming taxpayers individually and collectively.”

In addition to dealing with after-effects of budget cuts, the agency will also have a difficult go of it this fiscal year because of new forms, calculations and questions related to requirements mandated by the Affordable Care Act and Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act that are going into effect, the Times reports.

Need Help From the I.R.S.? You May Need More Patience This Year [The New York Times]