Some IRS Assistance and Taxpayer Services Shift to Automated Resources
Given available resources and shifting taxpayer demands, the IRS will be making a number of taxpayer service changes for the 2014 filing season.
The changes, which were made following input from stakeholders in the tax community, reflect the need for increased use of automated self-service options. With limited resources to support person-to-person services on the phone or at Taxpayer Assistance Centers, the IRS is emphasizing services, such as those found on IRS.gov, to help meet a number of taxpayer needs. This approach will free up IRS assistors on the phone or in person to help with issues that cannot be resolved through other avenues, such as issues involving identity theft.
Each year, the IRS balances anticipated customer service needs against available resources to determine the right mix of technology, employees and IRS partner-provided assistance to meet these needs in the most effective and efficient way. The changes for filing season 2014 affect these areas:
- Tax Return Preparation
- Transcript delivery
- Tax Law Assistance
- Tax Refund Inquiries
- Employer Identification Number
- Practitioner Priority Service
Taxpayers should find these automated services easy to use and convenient. Many are available 24 hours and seven days a week.
Tax Return Preparation
Due to resource constraints, fewer tax returns have been prepared at IRS walk-in offices in recent years. For several years, return preparation has only been available in a limited format – only offered at some IRS offices and not every day of the week at some locations. In addition, taxpayers had to have income below the Earned Income Tax Credit thresholds to receive this assistance.
With the growth in electronic tax preparation and continued resource limitations, the IRS will be directing qualified taxpayers during the upcoming filing season to more than 13,000 volunteer partner sites across the country rather than limited services at the IRS’s 250 walk-in offices. The IRS will refer taxpayers who visit the walk-in offices for tax preparation to the nearest volunteer site for tax return preparation.
Almost everyone can use IRS Free File to prepare and e-file their own returns for free. People who made $58,000 or less last year – and that’s 70 percent of taxpayers – can use Free File software. Fourteen companies make their brand-name tax software products available for free. For people who earned more, there’s Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms. It’s best for people comfortable preparing their own returns. Free File is available only at IRS.gov/freefile.
New “Get Transcript” Service
Early in 2014, a new online request option called “Get Transcript” on IRS.gov will allow individual taxpayers with an SSN to instantly view and print a copy of their tax transcripts. With Get Transcript, taxpayers will save both time and effort. When the new service is available, transcript requests will generally be referred to the online tool. Taxpayers will be able to use the tool to authenticate, view and print copies of their transcript in one session. Taxpayers will still also be able to request that a transcript be mailed to their address of record by using the existing online tool or sending in Form 4506T. A specific date when Get Transcript will be available will be announced early in 2014.
The tool will be available for five types of transcripts: tax account, tax return, record of account, wage and income, and verification of non-filing.
Tax Law Assistance
The majority of tax law questions the IRS receives each year are about basic tax law issues. This includes questions pertaining to Forms 1040A, 1040 EZ and related items on Form 1040 such as filing status, dependents, exemptions and taxable income. During each filing season (January to mid-April), the IRS will continue to answer these basic tax law questions.
A small percentage of taxpayers seek help with other, more detailed tax law questions that frequently take more time to address. Beginning with the 2014 filing season, the IRS will refer taxpayers with these more complex questions to a number of other resources available on IRS.gov, IRS tax publications and the software packages taxpayers may already be using. This step reflects the continuing adoption of tax preparation software. More than 90 percent of all taxpayers use of tax return preparation software, either on their own or through their tax professional, and the tax law help is included as part of the software.
Most tax law questions are asked during filing season. To focus IRS resources on the filing season, outside of the January – April time frame the IRS will refer all taxpayers with tax law questions to the resources listed above.
Tax Refund Inquiries
Traditionally, the most common question the IRS receives is about when people can expect to see their refund. In recent years, the IRS has issued more than 90 percent of refunds in less than 21 days. With the continued growth of the internet and mobile apps, the IRS will direct all refund inquiries during the first 21 days after a taxpayer files electronically to the “Where’s My Refund?” tool available in English and Spanish through the IRS2Go phone app, IRS.gov and the automated telephone service. IRS customer service representatives will only be able to research the status of a refund if it’s been 21 days or more since the return was filed electronically or more than six weeks since a paper return was mailed to the IRS or if the Where’s My Refund? tool directs them to contact the IRS.
Practitioner Priority Service
The Practitioner Priority Service (PPS) provides tax professionals a dedicated channel to resolve taxpayer client account issues. Over the past few years, a growing number of customers who were not tax professionals used this service. Beginning in January, the IRS will limit PPS to tax professionals and requests related to resolving client related issues. All other requests will be referred to other appropriate resources for service. This change is expected to help the IRS provide better service to more tax professionals and help free up other resources for customer service.
Employer Identification Number
The IRS’s EIN Online Assistant continues to be a success with more than four million requests processed per year electronically compared to just over 588,000 requests made for an EIN via our manual telephone option. Beginning with the 2014 filing season, the IRS will refer all EIN requests to the EIN Online Assistant and refer only those with questions about a previously assigned EIN to a live IRS representative
Any savings realized from these initiatives will be reinvested into improving service on the phone and at our walk-in sites.
Other Resources Available for Free Help
- Free File: Do Your Federal Taxes for Free
- Free Tax Return Preparation for You by Volunteers
- IRS Free Tax Return Preparation Programs
- Return Preparation and Filing Options
- Where's My Refund - It's Quick, Easy and Secure
- 2014 Publication 17
- Interactive Tax Assistant
- IRS Tax Map
- Teletax 800-829-4477 (for those without internet access)