IRS Hung Up On 8.1 Million Taxpayers Without Answering Phone

We knew going into this tax season that budget cuts to the Internal Revenue Service would result in less help for taxpayers and a likely increase in taxpayer fraud and errors, but today IRS Commissioner John Koskinen detailed exactly how badly things went this year.

In prepared testimony [PDF] before the House Ways & Means Committee this morning, Koskinen said that budget cuts left the IRS “unable to provide adequate levels of taxpayer service,” and that “taxpayers did not get the customer service experience they deserve.”

One of the more egregious examples are so-called “courtesy disconnects,” where someone trying to contact the IRS via phone is hung-up on before they even speak to someone. This occurs when the IRS phone system is unable to deal with the flood of incoming calls and people on hold.

Koskinen said the number of disconnects so far in 2015 has already reached 8.1 million. Compare that to only 360,000 during the same time in 2014. That’s an increase of more than 22 times the number of disconnects.

And for those who weren’t cut off, the waiting times were outrageously long — upwards of 30 minutes or more.

Koskinen said these stats are “unacceptable to all of us.”

Lines at Taxpayer Assistance Centers are getting longer, and people are queuing up for help hours before these centers open for the day, said Koskinen. It’s not a new phenomenon, he testified, “but it has gotten worse over time, and we are working to find a better approach for taxpayers.”

In an effort to trim government spending — and in apparent retaliation for alleged partisan bad behavior by some IRS officials — the agency’s budget has been slashed in recent years; down $1.2 billion since 2010.

“Customer service, both on the phone and in person has been much far worse than anyone would want,” Koskinen testified. “It’s simply a matter of not having enough people to answer the phones and provide service at our walk-in sites as a result of cuts to our budget.”

Some members of Congress have accused the IRS of deliberately diverting funds from customer service to implementation and enforcement of the Affordable Care Act, but Koskinen contends that the agency is required by law to implement the law and that this costs money. Without additional funding, and with additional budget cuts, the IRS had to take money from somewhere.

“In both years the Congress gave us zero dollars so we had no choice but to look elsewhere,” he testified.

Once again, we conclude by bringing you Sir Michael Bolton’s serenade to the under-funded IRS:

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