Washington D.C. – As the 2023 tax filing season opens on Monday, the IRS has hired more employees to answer phone calls and reopened more offices around the country to provide in-person help, a sign that the agency is already using additional resources provided by Congress to augment its all-important taxpayer service mission.
The IRS recently announced that it had met its initial goal to add 5,000 more customer service representatives to staff the phone lines before the start of the tax filing season, and more Taxpayer Assistance Centers are now open for taxpayers to meet face-to-face with an agency professional.
“We now have proof that some of the first dollars spent from the Inflation Reduction Act went directly toward improving customer service for American taxpayers -- individuals and businesses,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon. “While significant backlogs, staffing and technology challenges remain after a decade of budget cuts, the public should be heartened to see the immediate commitment to making it easier for taxpayers to reach the IRS and get their questions answered.”
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 provided about $79 billion over 10 years for the IRS to rebuild, reform and modernize in a way that improves customer service and reduces the deficit by increasing compliance and enforcement actions against high income taxpayers and large corporations that try to evade taxes.
When it comes to taxpayer assistance, there is a lot of rebuilding to be done: The agency’s corps of customer service representatives – who are sometimes faced with 1,500 phone calls per second during peak tax filing season – was decimated, falling from 21,000 employees in 2010 to less than 13,000 in 2020, according to the IRS Data Book. The number of CSRs increased to about 15,400 in 2021.
“Customer service representatives at the IRS know full well that too many taxpayer phone calls go unanswered and they welcome the addition of 5,000 more to their ranks,” Reardon said. “The key is to get these new employees on board as soon as possible so they can complete their training and get to work.”
Starting with the funding cuts of 2010, the total number of in-person Taxpayer Assistance Centers has dropped from 401 to 362. Staffing levels are lower, hours of operation are fewer, and they have all switched to appointment-only.
As of mid-November, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reported there were 35 Taxpayer Assistance Centers that were still closed for lack of staffing. With the additional resources provided by the Inflation Reduction Act focused on hiring 700 new TAC employees, the number of closed TACs in mid-December was down to 29.
“Unfortunately, some in Congress are determined to reverse this progress and rescind most of the new funding for the IRS,” Reardon said. “As the IRS opens the fourth tax filing season since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we encourage Congress to stand by its decision to invest in the IRS and provide employees with the resources they need to handle the increasing workloads and frequent changes to the tax code.”
Legislation to repeal the IRS funding would increase the federal deficit by $114 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
NTEU represents employees in 34 federal agencies and offices.