IRS Correspondence With Taxpayers and Its Telephone Assistance Program

Gao ID: T-GGD-88-47 July 13, 1988

GAO reviewed the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) correspondence with taxpayers and its Telephone Assistance Program. In its review of IRS correspondence, GAO found that: (1) about half of the sampled letters that IRS sent to taxpayers were incorrect, incomplete, unresponsive, or unclear; and (2) IRS personnel often did not comply with procedures designed to enhance taxpayer relations. GAO believes that IRS should: (1) improve its training, supervision, and quality assurance; (2) revise the computerized service center system to allow employees to view their finished letters; and (3) determine whether it should revise performance standards and whether it should enhance employees' opportunities for advancement. In its review of the Telephone Assistance Program, GAO found that IRS assisters: (1) gave incorrect responses 36 percent of the time; and (2) had the most difficulty with questions that required probing and that related to recent tax law changes. GAO noted that IRS could improve telephone response accuracy through better training, improved working conditions, better reference materials, and lower employee turnover. GAO also found that IRS was aware of the problems and was undertaking several projects to address them.

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