That’s the advice of IRS Commish John Koskinen.
In his keynote address to a recent meeting of the National Society of Accountants, Koskinen whined that the biggest challenge facing the IRS is its attempt to implement tax provisions of the “Affordable Care Act” despite a cut in the agency’s budget by something like 7 percent.
“As I tell people on Capitol Hill, we are the only agency still operating at the post-sequester level,” bleated Koskinen.
The National Taxpayer Advocate does agree, noting in a recent report to Congress that only 61 percent of the more than 100 million customer service phone calls made to the IRS last year were actually answered. And telephone wait times increased from 2.6 minutes a decade ago to 17.6 minutes in 2013.
Koskinen says IRS was forced to cut 5,200 call center employees because of budget cuts, and he warns that wait times for phone “service” (the ultimate misnomer – ed.) will increase through the rest of the year due to lack of staff.
“Congress is starving our revenue-generating operations,” Koskinen noted. “If voluntary compliance with the tax code drops by 1 percent, it costs the US government $30 billion per year. The IRS budget is only $11 billion per year.”
Of course, if the law were just a little simpler to administer, perhaps IRS blokes could spend less time on the phone, but that’s a discussion for another day.
And speaking of telephone communiqués, IRS recently warned taxpayers to be aware of aggressive telephone “phishing” scams, and reminded them that the only way it communicates with folks about problems with their returns or payment status (at least initially) is by letter. It never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card info by phone.
Recent info from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) suggests that 90,000 folks have complained about phishing scams via TIGTA’s telephone hotline, and something like 1,100 victims have actually lost an estimated $5 million from these scams!
Commish Koskinen says, “Taxpayers should remember their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue, but through official correspondence sent through the mail. A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate payment. This is not how we operate. People should hang up immediately and contact TIGTA or the IRS.”
Scammers are pretty sophisticated, these days displaying such characteristics as:
• Ability to recite the last four digits of your Social Security Number.
• Ability to have your caller ID screen actually show an IRS telephone number.
• Threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, then hanging up only to follow up with another call from a chap pretending to be from the local police, or DMV, with a caller ID to match.
Contact Jeff Quinn at email@example.com.