It was even harder to get through to the IRS by phone during the 2015 filing season than first expected.
According to an interim report released on April 16 by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the IRS’s level of service – defined as the success rate of taxpayers who call for live assistance on the IRS toll-free telephone lines – was 38.5 percent, according to data through March 7.
This was hardly a small sample size; TIGTA reported that 45.6 taxpayers called IRS toll-free telephone lines, and only 4.2 million of those calls were answered. Even the National Taxpayer Advocate had projected a success rate no lower than 43 percent. For its part, the IRS predicted a 40.7 percent rate, which proved to be slightly optimistic.
Contrast these results with figures from the not-so-distant past: As recently as last tax season, the IRS was able to respond to calls approximately 75 percent of the
time. And just a decade ago, the IRS could boast that it answered the phone practically nine out of every 10 times.
What’s more, for taxpayers who decided to stay on the line, it took a lot longer for the IRS to pick up their call. The average wait time to speak to an IRS representative this past filing season was almost a half-hour (25 minutes, to be exact). The wait time was only about 12 minutes last filing season, and 14 minutes in 2013. Going back a decade, the hold time was just a few minutes.
“The IRS's efforts to monitor and prepare for the legislative extension of certain tax provisions prior to the start of the filing season enabled it to begin the filing season as scheduled,” Treasury Inspector General J. Russell George said in a written statement. “However, this filing season it has become increasingly difficult for taxpayers contacting the IRS by telephone to reach an assistor.”