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Treasury Secretary Promises Improved IRS

On September 15, 2022, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen spoke to IRS staff in New Carrollton, Maryland. She highlighted IRS improvements that will result from the Inflation Reduction Act.

Yellen started by explaining she favors a simple tax filing system. She noted that the typical American takes 13 hours to file a tax return. This is a dramatic contrast with Sweden, where many taxpayers file automatically through a text message.

Yellen admitted that the IRS Tax Assistance Centers have been "massively understaffed and under-resourced." She insists that all Americans should be able to receive in-person assistance as needed. During the past tax season, 900,000 Americans received in-person assistance. The IRS target for the 2023 filing season is to assist 2.7 million Americans.

Second, the IRS phone assistance program has been seriously deficient. During the last filing season, the IRS responded to less than two out of every ten calls, averaging a 10% to 15% response rate. Through hiring 5,000 additional customer service representatives, the IRS hopes to increase this level to 85% in 2023. This should cut the average wait time for a taxpayer seeking IRS phone assistance from 30 minutes in 2022 to 15 minutes in 2023.

Third, the IRS is committed to modernizing its computer system. Paper tax returns currently are manually entered into the system. The IRS is developing software that will scan paper returns and use a digital processing system. This will greatly accelerate tax refunds that are sent after taxpayers file a paper return.

In addition, the IRS is committed to working with customer service experts from many private industries. Yellen notes, "We recognize that customer service in the future will look differently than customer service today. Consulting these experts -- and employees at the IRS -- will help us sketch out our vision of what the IRS of the next decade looks like."

With new information technology (IT) resources, the IRS should be able to issue prompt refunds in 2023. Yellen continued, "For taxpayers, this means faster processing and faster refunds. The IRS will also build online capabilities to enable taxpayers to fully interact with the agency digitally."

Yellen concluded with a promise to the American taxpayers, "In addition to an IRS that can finally serve the American people, we will also have an IRS that makes sure that everyone pays their fair share."

Published September 16, 2022
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