Good luck getting your tax questions answered by the IRS this tax season or the next one when the tax cuts passed by Congress will be in effect. The IRS lacks the funding to “provide acceptable levels of taxpayer service,” according to the annual report from the agency’s National Taxpayer Advocate, released just two weeks after Congress passed tax legislation that will add $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over 10 years.
“The IRS absolutely needs funding,” according to the preface of the advocate’s report. “It cannot answer the phone calls it currently receives, much less the phone calls it can expect to receive in light of tax reform, without adequate funding.”
The agency estimates it will answer only six out of 10 taxpayer calls this coming tax filing season and less than 40% of calls with a “live assistor” during the full 2018 fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1, 2017, through Sept 30, 2018. After the April tax filing deadline, the IRS can’t answer any tax law questions by phone or at its taxpayer assistance centers, which “does not bode well for taxpayers seeking information about the major tax law changes and their impact on 2018 federal income tax returns,” according to the report.
(Related: IRS Releases Tax Withholding Tables for 2018)
The report, by Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson, shows that every year since 2011, the IRS has closed offices and reduced the number of its appeals officers, revenue officers, revenue agents, taxpayer assistance centers and reps and advocates in its taxpayer advocate service. Since fiscal 2009, its employee training budgets have been cut nearly 75%.
The agency estimates it will need about $495 million in additional funding for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 just to implement the new tax law, which includes programming and systems updates, answering taxpayer phone calls, publishing new forms, revising regulations and issuing guidance, training employees and developing the capacity to verify compliance with new documentation requirements.