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How was your 2015 tax-filing season?

Did you file your 2014 individual tax return yet?  Did everything go smoothly?  Were you pleased with the service provided by the IRS?

Chances are, you agree with Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson’s mid-year report.  Patrick & Robinson CPAs’ experience certainly echoes her statement:

“For the majority of taxpayers who filed their returns and did not require IRS assistance, the filing season was generally successful.  For the segment of taxpayers who required help from the IRS, the filing season was by far the worst in memory.”

To be fair to the IRS, funding was down and the workload increased significantly. The organization was required to implement large portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) this year.

If you ever worked at a deadline-oriented job where you must accomplish more with fewer resources, you can appreciate the difficulties and stress agents face.

On the other hand, if you encountered a tax issue that required an IRS agent’s assistance, you were likely much more focused on your stress.

According to statistics released in the report, IRS customer service representatives answered only 37% of taxpayer calls, while a whopping 8.8 million callers experienced a “courtesy disconnect.”  “Courtesy disconnect” refers to a situation in which the switchboard suffers so much overload it drops the calls.  If you were one of these callers, you’d probably challenge the IRS’ definition of “courtesy.”

Even if you connected with an agent, you likely experienced a long wait. The average hold time was 23 minutes. Compare these statistics with last year’s filing season, when the IRS answered 71% of calls in an average of 14 minutes.

You likely didn’t fare much better if your problem was so severe you contacted the Taxpayer Advocate Service’s (TAS) office.

This branch of the IRS provides a safety net for taxpayers experiencing hardships due to IRS action or inaction. Still, those agents answered only 39% of the calls, after an average wait time of 19 minutes.

Taxpayers who saw their returns blocked by the Taxpayer Protection Program (TPP) due to suspected identity theft suffered the most. Only 17% of those calls were answered, only after an average hold time of 28 minutes. Just what you need when you’re already anxious about your identity being possibly stolen, right?

If you used a CPA to prepare your return, you probably let him or her deal with these issues. The IRS served tax professionals better than average taxpayers, but still only 45% of those calls were answered after a 45 minute wait.

As you can imagine, your accountant can’t make many of those calls free of charge.

While no one wants to give more money to the organization perceived as taking our money from us, the reduced funding and more complex requirements imposed by Congress clearly reduced customer service at the IRS.

Ms. Olson encouraged the organization to “rethink its mission and allocate its resources more effectively.” You can take part in this, too. Elections are coming soon. As you review the candidates for our next president, consider their plans for tax reform.

Meanwhile, if the experienced tax accountant team at Patrick & Robinson CPAs can help you, get in touch: Office@CPAsite.com or (904) 396-5400. We look forward to hearing from you!

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