Tax Administration:

Accessibility, Timeliness, and Accuracy of IRS' Telephone Assistance Program

GGD-88-17: Published: Dec 3, 1987. Publicly Released: Dec 18, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the accessibility, timeliness, and accuracy of the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Telephone Assistance Program.

GAO anonymously placed 1,574 calls to 29 IRS telephone assistance sites and found that: (1) IRS placed 52 percent of the calls on hold for an average of 55 seconds until an assistor was available; (2) once an assistor answered a call, 16 percent of the time there was an average wait of 1 minute and 17 seconds while the assistor researched answers to questions; (3) 79 percent of the answers were correct and 21 percent were incorrect; (4) answers to questions which required the assistor to probe for more information had a 56-percent accuracy rate, compared with a 90-percent accuracy rate for answers where clarification was not required; and (5) answers to questions which dealt with recent tax law changes had a 68-percent accuracy rate, compared with 82 percent for questions which did not.

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