Hello IRS, anybody home? The IRS continues to dig out from under reams of paper

If you feel like the IRS is not heeding your call, you are not alone.   

As the IRS continues to dig itself out of its pandemic-induced backlog, taxpayer service has slid to an all-time low. US taxpayers started filing 2021 tax returns just a few months ago. However the IRS still hasn’t processed 17.6 million 2020 returns and had nearly 6 million pieces of unopened taxpayer correspondence sitting in 71 tractor trailers parked at its Ogden service center.  Although the IRS has 15,000 employees dedicated to answering the phone, it typically receives approximately 240,000,000 calls in the first half of the year – that’s 16,000 calls per employee, or about 1,500 calls per second.   

Also, did you know the 1-800 phone number the IRS lists on its correspondence to international taxpayers is not accessible outside the US? Or that when you do reach the IRS on its International Taxpayer phone line, you are taken through 5 minutes of prompts to get to the right department only to receive an outgoing message that essentially says, “The IRS is too busy to answer the call, so please try again later or on the next business day.”  If not, you generally face a standard hold time of about an hour before the phone line automatically disconnects. 

How many times do you have to submit an automatically processed Power of Attorney?

If you manage to get through to an agent on the phone, consider yourself lucky; you have beaten the odds.  The Taxpayer Advocate Service estimates that only 11% of calls to the IRS during the 2021 filing season were answered.   

You probably faxed a Power of Attorney form (“POA”) for your client to the Centralized Authorization File (“CAF “) unit – or perhaps you even uploaded it to the IRS’ relatively new on-line POA acceptance portal.  Why can’t the agent find it?  It takes about 6 to 8 weeks for the CAF unit to process a POA and then upload it into the taxpayer’s file.  In the meantime, you have to re-fax your POA to the agent while you are on the phone and then verify all the information that is on the POA. 

Once you’ve done all that, you still must hope that the agent can find the notice/return/other information you are calling about on its antiquated system and can actually help you beyond simply placing a hold on your client’s account.  After all of this, you need to determine how you are going to explain to your client why it took over 2 hours of your time to get a 30 day hold on their account and that you still have to send a written response to the IRS to resolve the issue outlined in the automatically generated notice that your client received. 

Putting service back into the internal Revenue Service’s customer service mandate

You might think that an agency that has Service as part of its name would provide a high level of service to its customers, i.e., the very taxpayers whose contributions fund its operations.   

Yet service is not what many taxpayers or their practitioners are receiving. 

Currently, 62% of IRS employees are within 6 years of retirement and the IRS, like many employers, has been struggling to do more with less – less budget, less manpower and less technology.  Given the already poor customer service, with a statistic like this, we can only expect things to get worse as IRS employees begin to retire over the coming years.  

So, what’s the IRS’ plan to dig itself out and get back on track?

In February 2022, the IRS announced that it added a second surge team and would reassign 1,200 employees to work through its backlog of unprocessed tax returns.  The IRS also announced that it is suspending the issuance of several types of automatically generated notices while it clears this backlog.  

On March 4, 2022, the IRS received authority to hire 10,000 additional entry level employees to assist in clearing the backlog. It also announced the creation of Taxpayer Experience Office whose mandate is to focus on taxpayer interactions with the IRS.  Some of the initiatives that are expected include expanded e-file and payment options, use of digital signatures, secure two-way messaging, and expanded customer callback. 

Let’s hope these initiatives will eliminate the need to phone the IRS because nothing I’ve read indicates the IRS will deploy additional resources to answer its phone lines any quicker. So, as my grandmother always said, “Patience is a virtue.”  Good luck with that. 

For more information on contacting the IRS or other US tax matters, please contact Lorynne Schreiber at 647.256.7682 or at ls@zeifmans.ca.  Her client call back statistics are significantly higher than the IRS’.


Q&A with Partner, Jennifer Chasson

Q&A with Partner, Jennifer Chasson

With over 25 years of experience and 100+ successful transactions under her belt, Partner, Jennifer Chasson, brings invaluable expertise to the table. Whether it’s guiding as an advisor, mentor underwriter, ...