IRS Telephone Assistance

Limited Progress and Missed Opportunities to Analyze Performance in the 2001 Filing Season Gao ID: GAO-02-212 December 7, 2001

Congress has long been concerned about the quality of service that taxpayers receive when calling the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for help in understanding and meeting their tax obligations. IRS has taken steps to improve its responsiveness to the tens of millions of telephone calls it receives each year, from expanding the hours of service to increasing the use of automation. In the 2000 tax filing season, the quality of telephone assistance was mixed and below IRS' long-term goal of providing world-class service. Overall, IRS made limited progress toward its goal of providing world-class telephone service. When compared with the 2000 tax filing season, access and accuracy in 2001 improved in two of six comparable measures, declined in one, and changed two percentage points or less in the others. IRS fell considerably short of its target to reduce the time that taxpayers spend waiting to speak with an assistor. Although assistors exceeded quality-of-service targets when responding to taxpayer questions, they did not meet higher targets for providing correct answers and account adjustments. IRS officials missed opportunities to analyze data to better understand the factors affecting telephone performance, including the actions it took to improve performance. IRS managers sometimes reached conclusions about key factors without conducting analyses to test their conclusions. IRS officials also missed opportunities to plan evaluations to determine the effectiveness of the actions taken to improve access and accuracy.


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