The Internal Revenue Service assists millions of taxpayers through its website, by telephone and via social media platforms as well as in person.
The IRS closed its offices nationwide between March 20 and April 6, 2020, in response to the surging pandemic. As a result, most customer service assistance options were unavailable to taxpayers. And the pandemic compounds the challenges created by budget cuts in recent years.
These actions continue to negatively affect the IRS’ ability to provide quality customer service, the agency said in its “Interim Results of the 2021 Filing Season” report, issued in May.
See the gallery for five customer service challenges that raise the hackles of taxpayers seeking assistance, and how the IRS is responding.
1. Where’s My Refund?
The IRS in a mid-March press release said income tax refunds may be delayed for several reasons, including the claiming of the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit. It did not, however, explain why a taxpayer’s return on which the EITC or ACTC was claimed would require further review and manual processing. The agency advised taxpayers to check the status of their refunds by using the Where’s My Refund tool of IRS.gov or on the IRS2GO app on their smartphones.
The IRS’ Taxpayer Advocate Service noted in an April blog post that this advice had limited utility because these tools tell taxpayers that their return is being processed, but gives no details as to whether they need to provide more information or when the refund will be released.
2. Economic Impact Payment Inquiries — Listen to the Message
The IRS created a new toll-free EIP line on May 18, 2020. All calls start with an automated message and, if needed, are directed to a contractor, as the IRS doesn’t take direct EIP calls from the public. As of March 20, the EIP telephone line had received 48 million calls. Of those, nearly 26 million were abandoned by the taxpayer before moving into the contractor assistor’s queue, either because the caller’s issue was satisfied by the information provided in the automated messages or because the taxpayer got frustrated and hung up. The remaining nearly 22.1 million calls were added to the contractor’s queue.