IRS phone operations managing call volume

Tuesday - 10/12/2010, 11:13am EDT

Mike Phillips, Deputy Inspector General, Audit, U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

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By Vyomika Jairam
Federal News Radio

Which agency gets 37 million phone calls each year, and manages to answer most of them without callers dying of starvation on hold? It's the IRS, and the tax agency isn't doing too badly.

That's the main finding from the latest audit of IRS telephone operations. To find out details, the Federal Drive spoke with Mike Phillips, deputy Inspector General for Audit with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

TIGTA surveyed the IRS's data to check for the IRS's overall level of service; how they helpful they were to taxpayers?

"Overall, the IRS actually did a pretty good job!" Phillips said.

TIGTA found that the IRS prepared for this year's filing season by hiring extra staff to answer more basic questions, and had their more experienced personnel available for more complex queries and problems.

IRS also "successfully encouraged taxpayers to use the Web, as well as automated phone tools to get information regarding their refunds and other things," Phillips said. "The overall number of phone calls that they had to answer this year, or that were actually assisted, was about a 14 percent."

Among TIGTA's recommendations for next year's filing season are that the IRS be sure to update all material that is distributed to taxpayers so that they are calling the appropriate lines for their specific query. In addition, TIGTA found that the IRS could increase efficiency with disabled and hearing impaired populations.