Reports & Testimonies

  • GAO’s recommendations database contains report recommendations that still need to be addressed.

    GAO’s recommendations help congressional and agency leaders prepare for appropriations and oversight activities, as well as help improve government operations. Recommendations remain open until they are designated as Closed-implemented or Closed-not implemented. You can explore open recommendations by searching or browsing.

    GAO's priority recommendations are those that we believe warrant priority attention. We sent letters to the heads of key departments and agencies, urging them to continue focusing on these issues. These recommendations are labeled as such. You can find priority recommendations by searching or browsing our open recommendations below, or through our mobile app.

  • Browse Open Recommendations

    Explore priority recommendations by subject terms or browse by federal agency

    Search Open Recommendations

    Search for a specific priority recommendation by word or phrase



  • Governing on the go?

    Our Priorities for Policy Makers app makes it easier for leaders to search our recommendations on the go.

    See the November 10th Press Release


  • Have a Question about a Recommendation?

    • For questions about a specific recommendation, contact the person or office listed with the recommendation.
    • For general information about recommendations, contact GAO's Audit Policy and Quality Assurance office at (202) 512-6100 or apqa@gao.gov.
  • « Back to Results List Sort by   

    Results:

    Subject Term: "Telephone services"

    5 publications with a total of 7 open recommendations
    Director: Jessica Lucas-Judy
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop and maintain an online dashboard to display customer service standards and performance information such that it is easily accessible and improves the transparency of its taxpayer service.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS reported that it is evaluating the data that it can make available online. IRS also indicated that it will include the service standards that taxpayers should expect when interacting with IRS. IRS expects to make this information available online by February 2018.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should review its document retrieval and scanning processes to identify potential training or guidance needs or other potential efficiencies.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS reported that it issued guidance to employees in February 2017 reminding them to follow IRS procedures that require thorough research of information contained in IRS systems before requesting a hard copy of documents from file storage or archives. However, IRS has not completed a review of its document retrieval and scanning processes to identify potential efficiencies. Without this review, IRS is missing potential opportunities to retrieve and scan the documents that employees require in a timely manner.
    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should revise IRS's notices to IDT refund fraud victims to include information such as (1) whether any dependents were claimed on the fraudulent return, (2) to the extent possible, if those dependents match any of those the taxpayer claimed the same tax year, and (3) how to request a redacted copy of the fraudulent return.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: In April 2017, IRS reported that it will revise its notices to victims of identity theft to include information that will advise them to protect the personally identifiable information of their dependents. The notice will also direct them to revised information and guidance on irs.gov. IRS expects to complete the revisions by July 2018.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Acting Commissioner of Internal Revenue should take the following action outline a strategy that defines appropriate levels of telephone and correspondence service and wait time and lists specific steps to manage service based on an assessment of time frames, demand, capabilities, and resources.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: IRS has made progress in developing a customer service strategy with defined appropriate levels of service and steps needed to provide such service, as we recommended; however, as of March 2017, IRS has not completed its efforts. In December 2015, concerned that the Department of the Treasury and IRS did not believe they needed to develop a comprehensive customer service strategy, we suggested that Congress consider requiring Treasury to develop such a strategy in consultation with IRS that would, among other things, determine appropriate telephone and correspondence levels of service. This includes establishing a customer service standard and identifying the resources required to achieve that standard. Taking these steps would increase transparency and help IRS communicate its resource needs, while helping Congress make more informed decisions about IRS's budget. In February 2016, IRS announced a "Future State" vision for agency-wide operations, which aims to improve services across different taxpayer interactions such as individual online account assistance, exams, and collections. In December 2016, IRS reported that it had undertaken a study on benchmarking its telephone performance against the best in the business, which we are currently reviewing. It also reported that many of our taxpayer service-related recommendations will ultimately be incorporated into IRS's Future State initiative. In November 2016, IRS provided documentation on the goals of the initiatives, which included goals on improving taxpayer service. However, this documentation does not include specific numerical targets that IRS expects to achieve for those goals. We will continue to assess this initiative as IRS works to develop it. However, it is unclear the extent to which and when our recommendations will be fulfilled by IRS's initiative. We maintain that Treasury should develop a comprehensive strategy in consultation with IRS which would enable IRS to make a more informed request to Congress about resource requirements needed to deliver specific levels of service. Finalizing a long-term comprehensive strategy will help ensure IRS is maximizing the benefit to taxpayers and possibly reduce costs in other areas, such as for IRS's telephone operations.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-5594

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To gain efficiencies and improve taxpayer service, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct the appropriate officials, based on the quality of service provided by comparable organizations and on what matters most to the customer, to determine a customer service telephone standard, and the resources required to achieve this standard based on input from Congress and other stakeholders.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: In January 2017, IRS officials provided results of a benchmarking study that it completed in response to our recommendation. In that study, an IRS team compared IRS's service, measures and goals to comparable agencies and companies. For example, IRS compared the types of measures the companies used, including those that were primarily service-driven and resource-driven. As a result, the team recommended options for additional measures to indicate the level of access taxpayers have to service, including across channels. In addition, IRS concluded that the ideal level of service is 83 percent, which optimizes a balance between wait time, disconnects, and assistor availability. It also recommended exploring using new technology including email, online chat, and telephone call back features as well as to establish regularly scheduled follow-up benchmarking. However, IRS did not adopt the standard level of service goal of 83 percent. Furthermore, in its fiscal year 2018 performance measures and goals, IRS planned a 39 percent level of service, which is substantially lower than the prior 2 year targets, both of which IRS exceeded. In addition, IRS did not estimate the resources required to achieve the level of service standard that it identified in its 2016 benchmarking study. While these benchmarking results represent an important step toward delivering a certain standard of telephone service, without actually setting goals that are consistent with those results and determining and communicating the resources required to achieve them, IRS is unable to work effectively with Congress and other stakeholders to deliver desired levels of service.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202)512-5594

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Congress may wish to consider providing IRS with math error authority (MEA) to use prior years' tax return information to automatically verify taxpayers' compliance with the limit on the number of years the Hope credit can be claimed.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of August 3, 2017, Congress has not provided IRS with math error authority (MEA) to use prior years' tax return information to automatically verify taxpayers' compliance with the limit on the number of years the Hope Scholarship Credit, now known as the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) can be claimed. The AOTC can be claimed by taxpayers for qualified tuition and related expenses for 4 years of postsecondary education. Under the Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes Act of 2015, IRS was granted MEA to disallow a claim for the AOTC if the taxpayer is not permitted to claim the credit due to prior fraudulent or reckless claims, or if the taxpayer omitted information relating to prior improper claims of the credit. IRS does not have authority to automatically deny an AOTC even if the taxpayer claims the credit for more than the 4 allowable years. GAO has in the past provided technical assistance to the House Solutions Caucus in drafting legislative language for a bill on extending MEA to use prior years' returns for verifying compliance with limits on the credit. In addition, the Administration has for many years included a revenue proposal in Treasury's Green Book to provide IRS with "correctable error authority" where the (1) information provided by the taxpayer does not match the information contained in government databases, (2) taxpayer has exceeded the lifetime limit for claiming the credit or deduction, or (3) taxpayer failed to include proper documentation with his or her return. If this revenue proposal was enacted, IRS would have the authority to deny claims for the AOTC if the taxpayer has already received the credit for 4 years.
    Director: White, James R
    Phone: (202) 512-5594

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Given the potential for improving compliance now and in the future, Congress may wish to provide IRS with the authority to use math error checks to identify and correct returns with ineligible (1) IRA "catch-up" contributions, and (2) contributions to traditional IRAs from taxpayers over age 70-1/2.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2017, the Congress has not provided IRS with the math error authority to ensure that taxpayers comply with certain catch-up and contributions requirements.