IRS Postpones Closure of Taxpayer Help Centers

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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will temporarily postpone plans to close 68 of its 400 Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) late this fall. The plan also includes closing up to six telephone help centers, further decreasing the number of weekly hours available for taxpayers to call for tax assistance. IRS TACs assisted more than 7.7 million taxpayers in 2004.

The IRS's decision came easier as the Senate and the House provided funding ($10.68 billion and $10.56 billion respectively) in excess of the Service's 2005 request of $10.24 billion. Neither version of the fiscal 2006 Treasury-Transportation Appropriations funding bill has been passed into law yet.

As a requirement of the House and Senate funding bills, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has been tasked with studying the impact of these closings and reporting to Congress with their findings before any closures will occur.

“I appreciate the actions the Congress has taken thus far in securing more resources for the IRS, and particularly that the Senate Appropriations Committee has full funded the President's request,” said IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson.

Organizations such as the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) have been fighting to keep the TACs open. The organization's president called the postponement a “huge victory.” NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley said that this decision “serves well the very large number of taxpayers who will continue to have available the in-person assistance of IRS employees.”

Other organizations such as the National Taxpayer Advocate, the IRS Oversight Board, and TIGTA also criticized the IRS plan enacted in the face of budget reductions.

“The President's budget gave us additional funding for enforcement, which helps reduce the deficit, but requires us to do some modest belt-tightening in other areas, as other federal agencies have been asked to do. We want to create efficiencies where they'd have the least impact on service. Nonetheless, I appreciate the concerns raised by Congress about our walk-in centers, and have put these closures on hold,” Everson added.

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