Many American taxpayers are again asking this year why it is so hard for them to call in and get through to a real IRS agent. The answer is simply these agents that provide telephone assistance to taxpayers have too much on and there aren’t enough agents to do the work or handle the ever increasing volume of calls from taxpayers. This means ongoing delays for tax payers looking for guidance and information on their return or refund.
According to a Taxpayer Advocate Report, the difference between FY 2018 and FY 2019 for levels of service and wait times for all phone lines at the end of the shutdown and the first week all employees was down over 50%. During the first week of filing season, the IRS answered only half of calls, and the average wait time was 17 minutes, compared to 4-minute wait during last year’s first week. Taxpayers calling to make payment arrangements had it worse. During the first week of filing season, 93.3% of taxpayers calling to make payment arrangements were unable to speak to a live representative; those who got through waited an average of 81 minutes. That compares to a 42% fail rate and a 30-minute average wait time the first week of filing season last year.
As their latest 2016 IRS Data book report shows the IRS telephone assistance service experienced a 40% rise in live telephone calls between 2015 and 2016. For 2017, even if the rise is more moderate, the trend of long wait times to talk to a real IRS agent will likely persist. After all there are early 70 million tax payers trying to get telephone assistance. The WMR site however still remains the most common (and most efficient) channel for folks to get updates on their tax return and refunds.
The IRS recommend contacting them directly only 21 days after your return is submitted and under processing. But a number of people have been waiting for much longer than that and are desperate to get an update on their refund status, which is not always clear from the WMR tool. Talking to a tax advocate can be helpful, but for specific details a real IRS tax agent is the best way to get a definite answer.
If you have tried to get through and keep seeing delays, hopefully you realize that it’s likely not due to anything wrong you are doing. Its just that with all the IRS funding cuts, there are not enough “live” agents to answer all the questions that come up around the complexities and vagaries of the American tax code/system.