Internal Revenue Service Assistance to Taxpayers in Filing Federal Income Tax Returns

GGD-76-49: Published: Apr 1, 1976. Publicly Released: Apr 1, 1976.

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The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) directly assisted taxpayers on about 41 million occasions during fiscal year 1975. This assistance, consisting mainly of handing out tax forms, answering tax questions, and helping to complete returns, was provided over a toll-free telephone system, at Internal Revenue offices, and during the filing period, at temporary offices, shopping centers, and elsewhere.

GAO interviewed taxpayers visiting service locations in 1974 and found that almost all were satisfied with the help received. The IRS also helps taxpayers indirectly by holding classes to teach people how to prepare their own and others' tax returns, and providing specially prepared tax publications to high schools and colleges for use in the classrooms. The agency's information on the success of these programs is inaccurate and appears to overstate their impact on taxpayers. IRS did not monitor enough of its tax assistors to determine if they were providing correct information.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: GAO recommends that the Commissioner of Internal Revenue test volunteer assistors to determine whether they have the basic tax knowledge needed to prepare simple returns and request IRS-trained volunteers to identify the returns they prepare so that the quality and number of returns prepared can be determined. The Commissioner should implement the program guidelines which require the testing of assistors in taxpayer service training classes to insure that course objectives are met, and provide the instructions and oversight needed to insure that all walk-in assistors are monitored. The Commissioner should also require summarization and reporting of monitoring efforts (specifically their extent and results) to officials at all appropriate management levels, use the monitoring results to counsel, retrain, or reassess problem assistors and to improve the training assignment of all assistors, and devise and implement nationally a means of collecting reliable data for determining the true impact of the taxpayer education program.

    Agency Affected:


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