Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity
Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 01/19/2011

Calling the IRS? Expect to wait 10 minutes

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Do you have 10 minutes to spare? You may need them if you call the Internal Revenue Service.

The IRS is keeping taxpayers calling for information about their tax accounts on hold for an average of 10 minutes -- the longest wait time in five years, according to a new Government Accountability Office report on the agency's performance during tax season, which runs from Jan. 1 to mid-April.

Despite the availability of most government services on the Internet, IRS telephone services are still critical because taxpayers seeking information about individual accounts can do so only by calling a toll-free telephone number, visiting an IRS office in person or submitting a written request.

The IRS received about 77 million telephone calls during the 2010 filing season, on par with the previous year. A new automated answering system handled about 40 percent of the calls, operators answered another 31 percent and 27 percent of calls ended when the caller hung up, according to the audit.

In response, IRS officials blamed the long waits on the growing number of people who are calling to obtain individual tax information and more callers seeking information about the new First Time Homebuyer and Making Work Pay tax credits. It described its response to taxpayer calls as "extremely successful," noting a 93 percent satisfaction rating among customers who used its telephone service.

The agency pushed backed against GAO's suggestion that it draft uniform customer service standards for telephone operators, suggesting that paying too much attention to the issue could pull money and manpower away from its primary mission of collecting taxes and enforcing tax laws.

Despite problems with telephone service, visits to reached 239 million, up about 4 million year-to-year in part to the site's popular "Where's My Refund?" tool.

Overall, the IRS processed about 137 million tax returns in 2010, a 2 percent drop from 2009, the report said. The agency issued 107 million refunds totaling $312 million, a 5 percent annual increase. About 20 percent of last year's tax returns required corrections, resulting in delayed refunds, but better accuracy and more money sent back to taxpayers.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

Cabinet and Staff News: U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman charms and unsettles the Chinese. Former Peace Corps director Sargent Shriver dies at age 95. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sees an opportunity for Democrats to clarify the new health-care law as Republicans attempt to repeal it. Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough stands by decision to pull 'Fire in My Belly' video. Got $1 million? You could earn an ambassadorship.

Lawmaker raises concerns about consumer agency: Republicans want to know about the agency's budget projections, rule-making plans and staffing decisions.

FCC, Justice approve Comcast and NBC joint venture: Many of the conditions on the deal focus on the burgeoning online video industry.

Fed labors to get its message out: They're struggling to find a coherent way to explain touchy issues to the public.

Obama orders all fed agencies to review regulations: He expects them to walk the fine line between protecting public health and safety and freeing business to pursue profits.

Health-care, financial reform skirt Obama review: The review focuses on old, outdated regulations so new ones written as part of the health-care and financial overhaul likely won't be affected, according to OMB.

How to keep talent? Money alone won't guarantee job satisfaction: Uncle Sam doesn't have a big problem retaining his workers - at the moment. But that could change.

Reno-era policy kept Jared Loughner off FBI gun list: An old policy memo from the Clinton administration paved the way for the accused Arizona gunman to buy his first firearm.

New Justice Department office will discipline prosecutors: It will decide how to discipline career officials who commit prosecutorial misconduct, including whether to refer them to state bar associations for punishment.

Postmaster general defends the 'Forever Stamp': Patrick R. Donahoe calls the denomination-less stamps "a convenience for our customers."

Follow The Federal Eye on Twitter | Submit your news tips here

By Ed O'Keefe  | January 19, 2011; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener, Oversight  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Obama orders federal agencies to review regulations
Next: Hospital visitation rights for same-sex partners now required by federal rules


Don't waste your time - when you do get someone they will not be able to answer your questions anyway.
The IRS customer service is worse than any commercial entity you can imagine.

Posted by: tgalysh1 | January 19, 2011 8:48 AM | Report abuse

And of course the IRS response is not binding on the IRS. You're better off just making up an answer yourself.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | January 19, 2011 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Post a Comment

We encourage users to analyze, comment on and even challenge's articles, blogs, reviews and multimedia features.

User reviews and comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be removed from the site. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. Finally, we will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or privacy policies or any other policies governing this site. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions.

characters remaining

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2011 The Washington Post Company