Empower and Enable All Taxpayers to Meet Their Tax Obligations

We will empower taxpayers by making it easier for them to understand and meet their filing, reporting and payment obligations. We continue to add and enhance tools and support to improve taxpayers' and tax professionals' interactions with the IRS on whichever channel they prefer.

Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for taxpayers and their representatives to understand and meet their tax obligations. We will reduce taxpayer burden by:

  • Simplifying the processes for tax filing, correction and payment,

  • Improving education and outreach on taxpayer rights and obligations and

  • Modernizing and expanding our service channels to meet taxpayer expectations.

We aim to increase voluntary compliance through outreach and education. Expanding our proactive communications to taxpayers and tax professionals will address compliance questions preemptively. For instance, receiving a notification about qualifications for tax credits may help taxpayers to claim credits properly. We’ll listen to taxpayers and understand what they need from the IRS. We’ll use insights from our taxpayer preference research, findings from behavioral science and input from partners in the tax community to engage taxpayers where, when and how they prefer.

We’re expanding our digital service options, including making our web services mobile-friendly in response to taxpayer and tax professional demand. This means increasing the availability and quality of self-service interactions, as well as providing taxpayers and third parties with convenient and secure means to resolve questions. These enhancements also will generate cost savings by reducing demand for labor-intensive, manual processes.

Digital Interaction Savings. In fiscal year 2016, taxpayers had 384 million digital interactions with the IRS; these interactions had a much lower per-transaction cost than traditional channels. Data provided indicates the number of interactions and the cost per interaction for different taxpayer channels in fiscal year 2016. There were 64 million assistor phone calls that cost an average of $42 each, 7.9 million mail  correspondences that cost an average of $57 each, and 4.5 million taxpayer assistance cen

We remain committed to improving services offered through telephone assistance, taxpayer assistance centers and mail correspondence. We’ll train our employees on the new tax law provisions and requirements to ensure taxpayers receive knowledgeable, courteous service when they need it most — regardless of channel preference.

Traditional IRS Service Channels. The IRS has high phone and face-to-face customer service rates. In fiscal year 2017, the IRS received 56 million call-in and face-to-face interactions, and found that 90% of customers were satisfied with their toll free assistance. Taxpayers also had a 77% level of service rate for toll-free assistance. Level of service is the relative success rate of taxpayers that call the toll-free number seeking assistance from a customer service representative. Finally, there was an 89

Objectives and Supporting Activities

  • Expand the use of plain language in taxpayer-facing communications and resources.

  • Develop additional self-assistance and correction tools, including enhanced Online Account capabilities for both taxpayers and representatives.

  • Equip employees, taxpayers and partners with the information needed to enable a timely resolution.

Electronic File (e-Filing) Rates. When taxpayers file electronically versus by paper, they receive refunds much faster and the IRS experiences cost savings of potentially $13-29 million per year. The e-Filing rate has continually grown over the last ten years. In 2007, the e-File rate for individual income tax returns was 57%, compared to 19% for businesses. In 2012, it was 81% for individuals and 37% for businesses. In 2017, it was 87% for individuals and 53% for businesses.
  • Develop and test the effect of proactive communications on taxpayer and tax professional behavior and implement effective communications accordingly.

  • Use behavioral research insights to tailor outreach based on taxpayer needs and preferences consistent with the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

  • Provide avenues for dialogue on IRS initiatives, products and policies, including timely communications with third parties.

  • Develop new digital tools and channels and expand functionality and capacity on existing digital channels.

  • Conduct behavioral research to identify taxpayer preferences for current and future services.

  • Continue enhancements to traditional channels (e.g., telephone, Taxpayer Assistance Centers, correspondence) to reduce taxpayer wait times, increase service transparency and accommodate taxpayer schedules.

  • Increase electronic filling.

Online Account, Interactive Tax Assistant, IRS2Go Mobile App, and “Where’s My Amended Return?” This information is based on data for FY2010 to 2017.

Measuring Success

The IRS will utilize a combination of new and existing performance metrics to evaluate progress toward the goal of empowering and enabling all taxpayers to meet their tax obligations. These include the telephone level of service rate (the percentage of toll free callers that successfully speak to a Customer Service Representative or receive informational messages); the availability of critical filing season tax forms and instructions; and the Enterprise Self-Assistance Participation Rate, among others. Performance is reported annually in the IRS's Congressional Budget Justification and the Department of the Treasury's Agency Financial Report.

Enterprise Self-Assistance Participation Rate (ESAPR) - This measures the percent of instances where a taxpayer uses one of the IRS's self-assistance service channels (i.e., automated calls, web services) versus needing support from an IRS employee (i.e., face-to-face, over the phone, via paper correspondence).

Trends and Challenges

Implementing Changes in Tax Legislation

The IRS recognizes that the legal and regulatory environment continues to evolve, given legislative developments around tax reform and the complex nature of tax policy. Implementing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (Public Law 115-97), the most significant revision of the U.S. tax code in more than 30 years, is the IRS’s highest priority.

We established the Tax Reform Implementation Office to help navigate the changes associated with tax reform. In conjunction with the Department, we will provide timely guidance for the new law and any future legislation to assist taxpayers in addressing their new tax compliance obligations seamlessly.

IRS will implement the new law in a way that serves taxpayers, facilitates tax compliance, and protects sensitive data. IRS will focus initially on the following areas:

  • Creating new and revised taxpayer forms, instructions and publications.

  • Providing technical support to taxpayers on issues involving interpretations of the law and of related published guidance.

  • Training IRS employees on the new law and helping the public, tax professionals and other industry partners understand how the law applies to them by issuing timely guidance.

  • Reprogramming information technology systems, with special focus on return processing and compliance systems (the backbone of the tax system).

Meeting Expectations of Taxpayers

Our taxpayers increasingly expect high-quality service akin to what they receive in the private sector. This also applies to corporations, trusts, estates, exempt entities and others that have a responsibility to file with the IRS. As a direct service provider, the IRS remains attuned to taxpayer preferences and needs. The IRS is updating its service approach with innovative, multi-channel offerings (e.g., online webpages, mobile applications, face-to-face assistance, phone, mail correspondence, etc.).

In addition to offering taxpayers more choices in how they interact with us, the IRS’s multi-channel strategy has the potential to increase overall levels of service. Updates to IRS digital services may reduce the number of simple, informational interactions on the phone or in person for many taxpayers, allowing us additional time to serve taxpayers with more complex service needs.

Back to Top

Empower Circle Graphic with a Lightbulb Icon