IRS E-Help Desk In Need Of Help

The U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has recently issued a 40-page report indicating that the IRS’s e-help desk, launched in 2002, has several problems that need to be addressed.

The e-help desk is a telephone call-in service provided by the IRS for taxpayers who have questions about electronic tax filing services offered by the IRS. These services include electronically filed tax returns, and payments made under the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). Electronic filing services are only available to tax practitioners. Electronic payment services under the EFTPS are available to all taxpayers.

The e-help desks are staffed by real people, employees of the IRS, with hours of operation from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. central time, Monday through Friday, and 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Saturday. There are four e-help desk located around the country at IRS offices in Andover, Massachusetts; Cincinnati, Ohio; Austin, Texas; and Ogden, Utah.

According to the TIGTA report, the IRS e-help desks show weaknesses in these areas:

  • Monitoring customer satisfaction
  • Evaluating accuracy of responses provided by the e-help desk
  • Documentation of answers provided to taxpayers
  • Accuracy of standard answers that are provided for commonly asked questions
  • Ensuring that e-help desk employees receive proper training

The IRS has indicated it agrees with all of the TIGTA’s findings and is taking corrective measures to address the problem areas. In particular, the IRS plans to institute customer satisfaction surveys and a focus group for the 2007 IRS Nationwide Tax Forums, implement contact recording of e-help desk sessions, produce documentation of solutions provided by the e-help desk, implement an approval process for solutions, establish and monitor processes to ensure that administrative information relating to e-help desk cases is accurate and complete, and establish a plan to monitor the training plans of e-help desk employees.

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