The 2015 Income Tax Filing Season: A Tale of Two Cities

The IRS funding was down in fiscal year 2015 about 17 percent from fiscal year 2010 on an inflation-adjusted basis. In addition to its normal duties involved in collecting about 93 percent of Federal revenues, the IRS was tasked this year with implementing major provisions of the Affordable Care Act and the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. Tax-related identity theft increased.

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson released her mid-year report to Congress last week. As you might surmise, the report does not paint a pretty picture.

“The 2015 filing season was akin to A Tale of Two Cities. For the majority of taxpayers who filed their returns and did not require IRS assistance, the filing season was generally successful. For the segment of taxpayers who required help from the IRS, the filing season was by far the worst in memory.”

During the filing season, the IRS answered only 37 percent of taxpayer calls routed to customer service representatives, and the hold time for taxpayers who got through averaged 23 minutes. This compares to the high water mark in the 2004 fiscal year when the IRS answered 85 percent of taxpayer calls directed to its telephone assistors and hold time averaged three minutes during the filing season.

These are wait times for you amateurs. We tax professionals have a Practitioner Priority Service (“PPS”) hotline.

“Over the course of the filing season, the IRS answered only 45 percent of practitioner calls on this line, and the hold time averaged 45 minutes. Thus, the use of the term “priority” has understandably evoked a combination of frustration and amusement from tax attorneys, CPAs, and Enrolled Agents, who must decide whether and how much to charge their clients for the time they spend waiting on hold. Of course, the 45-minute hold time represents merely an average. One practitioner told the National Taxpayer Advocate of waiting six hours to reach a telephone assistor. Another practitioner whom the National Taxpayer Advocate knows well forwarded an email from an associate at his law firm reporting on a four-hour and 24-minute telephone call, of which the first four hours and three minutes were spent waiting on hold.”

FYI. I multi-task while listening to the IRS hold music and don’t charge my clients for the waiting time. You are welcome.

VKM

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