IRS Warns Taxpayers Not to Try Calling Now
THE AGENCY IS ANTICIPATING A SURGE OF CALLS WITH TAX QUESTIONS THIS WEEKEND.
Most of us would hardly consider ourselves to be tax experts. Nevertheless, every year we're required to wade through confusing paperwork and ever-changing rules in order to file our taxes. If you don't have a paid tax professional helping you with your return, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has employees on board to provide free help to taxpayers in person and over the phone. But getting that help could end up costing you something else: your time and patience. Taxpayers have long complained about how hard it is to reach any of the agency's telephone assistors. And now, the IRS is warning against even trying. Read on to find out why the agency is advising taxpayers to avoid calling right now.
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The IRS recently hired thousands of new phone assistors.
The 2023 tax season is expected to be a confusing one for taxpayers, as many pandemic-related changes are being phased out after three years. As a result, the IRS said it "has taken additional steps" to help improve service this year.
One of these major adjustments was an increase to the agency's workforce. The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in Aug. 2022 allowed the IRS to hire more than 5,000 new telephone assistors over the last few months. These new customer service representatives have received weeks worth of training to "help improve the taxpayer experience" by answering phone questions, according to the agency.
"The IRS is fully committed to providing the best service possible, and we are moving quickly to use new funding to help taxpayers during the busy tax season," former IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in an Oct. 2022 statement. "Our phone lines have been simply overwhelmed during the pandemic, and we have been unable to provide the help that IRS employees want to give and that the nation's taxpayers deserve … As the newly hired employees are trained and move online in 2023, we will have more assistors on the phone than any time in recent history."
But the agency is still warning taxpayers against calling for help.
Despite this recent addition to the agency's workforce, the IRS is still calling for caution when it comes to over-the-phone assistance. "Even though we have new hires in the pipeline, our phone lines remain extremely busy," Rettig warned in October.
Doug O'Donnell, the acting IRS Commissioner who recently took over from Rettig, gave a similar warning in January, right before the 2023 tax season started. "We've trained thousands of new employees to answer phones and help people [but] our phone volumes remain at very high levels," he confirmed.
Over the past few years, these historically high levels have led to many people's phone calls going unanswered. During the 2022 tax season, the IRS received about 73 million telephone calls from taxpayers looking for help, according to The Washington Post. But Erin Collins, the national taxpayer advocate, reported that only about 10 percent of these calls actually reached an IRS employee.
"If a private company failed to answer nine out of 10 customer calls, customers would go elsewhere. That, of course, is not an option for U.S. taxpayers," Collins wrote in her report.
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You should really avoid calling in the coming days.
It's now more important than ever for you to heed this advice. In a new alert posted Feb. 16, the IRS warned taxpayers that the "peak period" for filing taxes is quickly approaching. According to the agency, many people prepare and submit their tax returns during Presidents Day weekend every year. As a result, this creates a peak period for calls to the IRS.
"The IRS continues to see improvements this tax season compared to previous years, including better phone service," O'Donnell said in a statement. "But we always see a significant surge in phone traffic around Presidents Day. With the calendar advancing, millions of people turn their attention to taxes during this period."
The IRS recommends using online tools during this time.
In light of this anticipated phone line surge, you might be better off trying different options before resorting to calling. "During the two week February period following Presidents Day, the IRS recommends turning first to the self-help tools available online," the agency said in its new alert.
The IRS website is full of tools designed to provide quick answers to taxpayers at any time. "There's no wait time or appointment needed—online tools and resources are available 24 hours a day," the agency explains. For help answering common tax questions, the IRS suggests searching the Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA), Tax Topics, and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) sections of its online website. You can also set up your own Online Account to help get personal tax information quickly.
"To avoid potential delays, we encourage people to check IRS.gov first, which can provide much of the same information instantly to taxpayers," O'Donnell said in his statement.
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