US IRS, keen to safeguard funding, says phone performance improves

By Thomson Reuters Feb 27, 2024 | 9:57 AM

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Internal Revenue Service is ahead of last year’s tax filing service metrics, achieving a 92% level of service on its main toll-free phone line and cutting hold time to less than two minutes, a U.S. Treasury official said on Tuesday.


The IRS is eager to show that $80 billion in funding from the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act over a decade is translating into continuing tangible improvements for taxpayers as Republicans in Congress seek to claw back those funds.

Last year, it hired over 5,000 workers to answer phones, staff taxpayer assistance offices and process returns more quickly, and this figure has now grown to 5,700 as of Feb. 23, the Treasury official said.

This year, the IRS has also debuted a “callback” option if the wait time is more than 15 minutes, a feature widely used in private-sector call centers for airlines and retailers.

The IRS funding was meant to make up for reduced resources over the previous decade, modernize antiquated technology, strengthen audit and enforcement capabilities and improve taxpayer services. But a bipartisan top-line spending deal for the 2024 fiscal year would divert $20 billion of the total to other uses.


“Taxpayers are benefiting from significantly improved service on the phone, in person and online this filing season thanks to resources from President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act,” U.S. Treasury Deputy Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a statement, adding that the new callback option means taxpayers spend “less time on hold and more time to spend on themselves and their families.”


The Treasury official said the IRS in 2022 was able to serve just 15% of callers on its main phone line because of low staffing over a decade of budget cuts. That was improved to 87% last year, above its commitment for handling 85% of calls, so this year’s 92% level represents further improvement.

The IRS has used the Inflation Reducing Act funding to open or reopen 50 in-person taxpayer assistance centers and has expanded opening hours for the centers by 4,000, ahead of the pace needed to meet its goal of 8,500 hours this tax season.

(Reporting by David Lawder; editing by Jonathan Oatis)