Our Commitment to Serving a Diverse Nation

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To reach out to broader audiences, this year we developed numerous ways to provide information in multiple languages on IRS.gov.

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By Jim Clifford
CL-21-03, January 21, 2021

While the IRS has been focused on helping the nation’s taxpayers during these challenging times, we’re also focused on our core mission, which includes doing everything we can to improve taxpayer interactions with the IRS.

Commissioner Rettig frequently says that the value of taxpayer services must be measured through the eyes of the taxpayer, and that belief drives our efforts to ensure the IRS honors the diversity in our nation and strives to serve all taxpayers.

Multilingual taxpayers, and multilingual IRS employees, provide extremely valuable contributions to the ultimate success of our country. Many taxpayers have various challenges and face constraints when doing their taxes and getting access to assistance and information. Those who are not comfortable interacting in English are often underserved when agencies reach out to provide assistance or services. The Commissioner has made it a priority for us to do more to help taxpayers in their most comfortable language. Improving service to all taxpayers is important to us and we have been rapidly expanding our multilingual initiatives. In this regard, I wanted to take a moment to highlight some of what we’re doing at the IRS in this area and talk about our longer-term strategies.

One of the most important ways the IRS can serve diverse communities is by communicating with them in the language of their choice. We’ve had a long history of providing major communications products in Spanish, including web content, social media posts, the IRS2Go mobile app and the Tax Withholding Estimator. And in July, at the IRS Nationwide Tax Forum, several seminars, including the plenary session, were also provided in Spanish.

With more than 350 different languages spoken in the U.S., we know we can do more, we want to do more and we are. Back in the spring, with the help of our partners across the country, Economic Impact Payment outreach materials were made available in 35 different languages. To reach out to broader audiences, this year we developed numerous ways to provide information in multiple languages on IRS.gov. There is a new “Languages” page that has basic tax information translated into 20 languages. Certain high-volume web pages have been translated into, Spanish, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Korean, Russian, Vietnamese and Haitian-Creole. Website visitors can see the links to available translations on the right side of applicable web pages, just below the title. We have also expanded our efforts to use multiple languages on social media, including Twitter and Instagram.

One of the most important ways the IRS can serve diverse communities is by communicating with them in the language of their choice.

Looking forward, we will continue to pursue our ability to accelerate the development of clear guidance, forms and instructions in non-English languages. We are including information regarding translation services with our high-volume notices. To make sure we are on the right path, we’ve developed a coordinated IRS Servicewide Multilingual Improvement Approach with the tools, access, knowledge and resources necessary to ensure the IRS serves all taxpayers and makes it as easy as possible for everyone to meet their tax responsibilities. Several short-term initiatives are underway, including more multilingual enhancements on IRS.gov, expanded availability of tax forms and publications in additional languages, procurement of translation services, enhanced customer outreach, and computer software to aid in translation.

Having just recently kicked off this effort, we’ve already expanded Over the Phone Interpreter (OPI) services in most taxpayer-facing functions, including across-the nation OPI support for the (800) 829-1040 line, which serves as a gateway for multilingual services across the IRS. We are also looking at further expanding telephone assistance to improve our multilingual services for 2021. And I’m very pleased about another key accomplishment for the upcoming filing season - we will provide the Form 1040 in Spanish for the first time! In addition to being available in English and Spanish, the 2020 Form 1040 will also give taxpayers the opportunity on Schedule LEP to indicate whether they prefer to receive written communications in one of 20 languages other than English.

The development and execution of this strategy is a team effort. Earlier this year, we established a National Multilingual Stakeholder Engagement Council to bring together people inside and outside the IRS to discuss our multilingual strategy and collaborate on the path forward. During 2020, the Council coordinated two National Multilingual Stakeholder Summits, with nearly 20 external diverse organizations discussing strategies for engagement, advisory and collaboration, understanding barriers, overcoming challenges and identifying opportunities. This is an excellent example of our Community of Partners concept in action and I’m confident that with this ongoing collaborative effort, we’ll be continuing to expand opportunities for the underserved communities going forward.

The IRS Multilingual Improvement Approach establishes a long-term enterprise vision for expanding communications and services to meet the needs of multilingual taxpayers. It is intended to guide the direction, mission alignment, investments, and accountability of the IRS community in providing multilingual taxpayers with meaningful access to IRS products and services. Over the next few years, the Multilingual Approach is designed to earn the trust and respect of multilingual taxpayers by providing valuable assistance in their efforts to voluntarily comply with their filing, reporting and payment obligations. The IRS community will accomplish this outcome by evaluating and implementing emerging translation and interpretation technology through engaging public and private vendors, increasing the value of interaction channels, partnering to enhance education and access of services, and optimizing IRS operations to support multilingual efforts both internally and externally. Further, we will enhance our partnerships with community-based organizations to increase awareness and overall tax compliance.

We want to provide ongoing, high-quality, personalized service to everyone, no matter where they live, what their background is, or what language they speak. These Servicewide multilingual efforts have been a high priority for the Commissioner and will remain a priority of the IRS indefinitely. With a vision of providing taxpayers more meaningful access to the tools, knowledge and resources necessary to fulfill their tax obligations, our ultimate goal is an improved taxpayer experience for everyone.

Jim Clifford
Director, IRS Taxpayer First Office, Taxpayer Experience Strategy

Jim Clifford Director, IRS Taxpayer First Office, Taxpayer Experience Strategy

About the Author

Jim has provided executive leadership over nearly every taxpayer-facing program the IRS administers, across both compliance and service environments.

In 2019, Commissioner Rettig asked Jim to serve as one of the four core executives leading the Taxpayer First Act implementation. Through his role in the Taxpayer First Act Office (TFAO), Jim has been able to bring together his expansive and crosscutting experience to lead the development of TFA strategies—reimagining the way IRS serves taxpayers.
 

 

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