IRS says beats US tax filing season service goals, needs funding sustained

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[April 15, 2024]  By David Lawder
 
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Internal Revenue Service started tax filing deadline day on Monday by announcing that it had exceeded its goals for speeding assistance to taxpayers and cutting phone hold times to three minutes, and underscoring the need for Congress to maintain adequate funding for the tax agency.   

A U.S. 1040A Individual Income Tax form is seen at a U.S. Post office in New York April 15, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

THE TAKE: The IRS is completing its second tax return filing season with increased funding from the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which initially provided $80 billion in funding over 10 years to modernize the agency, improve taxpayer services and boost enforcement. That has since been reduced to $60 billion by Republicans in Congress, and lawmakers continue to argue over the IRS' separate annual operating budget.

The IRS has poured its initial resources into improving taxpayer services, digitizing filing capabilities and launching a pilot free-filing system.

BY THE NUMBERS: The IRS said it has cut its average call wait time on its main taxpayer helpline to three minutes, down from four minutes last year and 28 minutes in 2022, before it received the additional funding.

This was achieved despite answering nearly one million more calls than in 2023. The IRS said it provided help to 88% of callers, beating its 85% goal. A new call-back feature similar to those widely offered by airlines, banks and retailers also saved 1.4 million hours of hold time, IRS said.

IRS has hired more than 5,000 staff to assist taxpayers on the phone and at in-person service centers and to handle digitization of paper filings. IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel told reporters this was the "right-size workforce" for taxpayer services, but the agency needs to keep hiring to keep up with attrition.

Even with the supplemental funding, Werfel said the IRS does not have adequate resources to sustain hiring for taxpayer services and auditing of complex business partnerships while modernizing its systems, so it will need to see annual operating budget increases in future years.

KEY QUOTE: "These accomplishments show that the IRS' strong performance last filing season was not a fluke," U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said. "It's showing that when (the IRS) has the resources it needs, it will provide taxpayers the service they deserve," Yellen said, adding that she would work with Congress "to ensure that IRS has the resources to sustain this momentum."

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Christopher Cushing)

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