National Taxpayer Advocate Releases Filing Season Report to Congress (IR-2016-97)

CCH Tax Day Report

National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) Nina E. Olson has released her midyear report to Congress, highlighting the 2016 filing season. Olson also discussed tax-related identity theft and the Service’s response.

Olson noted that the IRS maintained approximately 375 Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) around the country that collectively served more than 5-million taxpayers annually. Further, the IRS planned to eliminate virtually all walk-in service, and will require that taxpayers schedule advance appointments in all TAC locations by the end of 2016. Olson observed that this requirement would cause particular harm to taxpayers who would not know that the TACs have shifted to appointment only scheduling, and sometimes travel considerable distances to seek personal assistance; and to those who would need urgent assistance and cannot wait to obtain an appointment.

On both its phone lines and in its TACs, the IRS continued recent restrictions on answering tax-law questions, Olson noted. Further, during the filing season, the IRS answered only basic questions, deeming more complex questions out of scope. However, she added that, during the 2016 filing season, the IRS answered 73 percent of its calls, and the wait time dropped to 11 minutes.

Olson discussed how the IRS screens all tax returns claiming refunds in an attempt to identify returns submitted by identity thieves. She further noted that the false positive rate of this program, known as the Taxpayer Protection Program (TPP), was 36.6 percent in 2015. During the 2016 filing season, the IRS received more than 4.4-million calls on its TPP telephone line and it answered just 22.7 percent of those calls, meaning that nearly four out of every five calls were not answered. This was by far the worst performance on any high-volume telephone line.

Olson recommended that the IRS devote more resources to re-calibrating its filters during the filing season, and establish a maximum target false-positive rate, in order to simultaneously block more fraudulent returns, and reduce the number of legitimate returns it flags, thereby reducing inconvenience to taxpayers.

IR-2016-97, 2016FED ¶46,366

National Taxpayer Advocate Objectives Report to Congress Fiscal Year 2007

Other References:

Code Sec. 7804

CCH Reference – 2016FED ¶43,266.385

Tax Research Consultant

CCH Reference – TRC IRS: 3,058

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