Tax Administration:

Timeliness and Accuracy of IRS' Telephone Assistance on Tax Questions

GGD-86-89FS: Published: Jun 18, 1986. Publicly Released: Jul 17, 1986.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the timeliness and accuracy of the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Telephone Assistance Program during the 1986 tax season.

GAO found that: (1) during fiscal year 1985, IRS handled 86 percent of its direct assistance to taxpayers by telephone; (2) the majority of taxpayers were successful in contacting IRS and obtaining accurate answers to their questions; (3) taxpayers reached 68 percent of IRS telephone sites on the first call; (4) IRS responses to the taxpayers' questions were accurate 83 percent of the time; and (5) IRS increased its multifunctional telephone lines, which provide recorded tax information and refund inquiries, by 100 percent. GAO also found that: (1) 76 percent of the surveyers were able to reach an IRS assister in less than 1 minute after placing a completed call; (2) the amount of time a taxpayer was on hold ranged from 1 to 14 minutes; (3) the sites using computerized equipment, as well as those with partially computerized or manual equipment, showed a 93-percent accessibility rate up to five call attempts; and (4) the volume of calls did not affect accessibility.

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