Tax Administration:

IRS' 1992 Filing Season Was Successful But Not Without Problems

GGD-92-132: Published: Sep 15, 1992. Publicly Released: Sep 15, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) performance during the 1992 tax filing season, focusing on: (1) service center processing of returns; (2) accuracy and accessibility of IRS toll-free telephone assistance; and (3) the availability of tax materials at IRS distribution centers and walk-in offices.

GAO found that: (1) IRS received 108.1 million individual returns from January 1 through May 1, 1992, a 1-percent increase over 1991; (2) IRS increased the use of alternative filing systems, including 10.9 million electronic tax returns and 126,000 telephoned returns; (3) service centers met or exceeded the 98-percent refund accuracy rate, and refund response time averaged less than 40 days; (4) the Earned Income Credit (EIC) caused continued problems for IRS and taxpayers; (5) in 1992, IRS gave EIC to 600,000 taxpayers who had not claimed it and does not plan to recover the erroneous payments; (6) IRS placed different requirements on taxpayers when processing EIC, which delayed some taxpayers' receipt of EIC; (7) the accuracy of telephone assistance increased but the telephone system's accessibility decreased; (8) IRS accuracy in providing tax materials in response to GAO test mail and telephone orders declined slightly but there was a sharp drop in timeliness; and (9) delays in congressional tax legislation, timely printing of publications, and on-line computer problems contributed to dissemination problems.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: IRS revised its procedures for processing returns involving earned income credit claims. That change should provide IRS with better information on which to make credit eligibility decisions. GAO monitored application of the new procedures during its assessment of the 1993 filing season and found that they had achieved their purpose.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should gather the necessary information to make correct EIC eligibility determinations in the future.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: IRS has begun using a measure called level of access, but that does not satisfy the recommendation because it is computed by dividing the number of calls answered by the number of callers. As such, it does not take into account the number of calls not answered or reflect the difficulty a caller had to go through (e.g., the number of times the caller dialed and got a busy signal) before getting through to IRS. Because GAO has since reiterated this recommendation in a later report, it is closing the recommendation here.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop a reliable measure of toll-free telephone accessibility.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GAO's recommendation resulted from a finding that the methodology used by a contractor IRS had hired to measure distribution center performance in 1992 was flawed and thus produced unreliable results. In hiring a contractor for 1993, IRS took steps to correct those flaws, as confirmed by GAO during its assessment of the 1993 filing season.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop a reliable measure of distribution center performance in filling mail and phone orders.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service

 

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