By Andrew Taylor, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The IRS is planning to push you to fire up the computer rather than calling for tax help, but the agency’s in-house watchdog says that could freeze out millions of taxpayers or force them to pay for advice.
As part of a plan that would focus more on online accounts for the 150 million individual taxpayers and 11 million businesses seeking help and information, the IRS may soon dramatically scale back telephone and face-to-face service, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson said in her annual report to Congress.
Olson said the IRS should be more open about its plans and that service cutbacks may cause an increasing number of people to turn to tax preparers and software such as TurboTax to file their returns.
That would increase tax compliance costs for millions of filers.
“Implicit in the plan — and explicit in internal discussion — is an intention on the part of the IRS to substantially reduce telephone and face-to-face interaction with taxpayers,” Olson’s report said. “The key unanswered question is by how much. … It is incumbent upon the IRS to be much more specific about how much personal taxpayer assistance it expects to provide.”
The IRS said Olson’s report did not paint an accurate picture. It said taxpayers want new options to interact with the agency and that moving more communications online would free up resources for traditional services.
“The IRS remains fully committed to personal service to taxpayers, and the…