Tax Day: How the IRS is Working Through It

Wednesday - 4/15/2009, 4:28pm EDT

Chris Dorobek

As heard on sister station WTOP

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Today is Tax Day!

While filing your tax return may feel like an enormous undertaking to you, the Internal Revenue Service has put some measures in place to help relieve the stress.

Q: Why is this such a big task for the IRS? Isn't this something that the IRS does every year?

A: It is, but sometimes it is easy to forget what a challenge this is each year -- and, of course, it is essential to the operation of the government.

There are two activities:

One is processing well over 100 million individual income tax returns and refunds. The other is providing millions of taxpayers with assistance.

The IRS has been making strides to make improvements in both of these activities.

In processing returns, the tax agency has been working to get more people to file their returns electronically.

It was only a few years ago that the number of taxpayers filing electronically surpassed the number of people filing their returns by paper.

There are huge advantages to e-filing. Not only is it significantly less expensive to process returns filed electronically, but there are significantly fewer errors in electronic returns.

The push to e-file has been relatively successful. Last year, almost 60 percent of taxpayers filed electronically.

Q: What about providing taxpayer assistance. Any progress on that front?

A: There has been a lot.

Many of us remember having to run to the local library or the Post Office because you didn't have the right tax form.

Even the concept of that seems odd today.

The IRS has made extensive use of its Web site -- irs.gov -- where it posts pretty much every form you can imagine.

Visits to the IRS Web site this year are up more than 20 percent.

For last year, the number of visitors to the IRS Web site was up more than 60 percent.

It has really allowed taxpayers to find the information they want when they want it -- and the IRS now even lets you check on the status of your refund.

The IRS Web site helps reduce the number of calls to the agency, but, of course, not everybody is online, and the IRS still has an enormous call center -- and the agency really has to ramp us for the tax filing season.

Last year, the IRS dealt with more than 80 million calls a week.

Then there are even people to contact them face-to-face at nearly 12,000 volunteer sites around the country.