Internal Revenue Service:

Effective Implementation of the Tax Reform Act Led to Uneventful 1988 Filing Season

GGD-89-2: Published: Nov 14, 1988. Publicly Released: Nov 14, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS): (1) implementation of the Tax Reform Act of 1986; and (2) efforts to provide taxpayer service and process tax returns during the 1988 filing season.

GAO found that IRS: (1) released many tax forms early for public comment and pretested significantly changed or widely used forms; (2) distributed information and worked with a public affairs organization to inform taxpayers about tax law changes; (3) added telephone lines and increased the number of assistants and operating office hours; (4) hired additional returns processing staff, reduced service center inventories, and conducted readiness checks; and (5) met its goals for issuing refunds, handling increased telephone assistance calls, and filling taxpayers' orders for forms and publications in a timely manner. GAO also found that: (1) 21.2 percent of the filed returns had one or more errors needing correction before processing; (2) taxpayers made more than half of the errors in filling out their returns; (3) IRS planned to modify tax forms and instructions to reduce taxpayer errors and emphasize training for staff errors for the 1989 filing season; (4) many taxpayers did not file the simplest returns possible because numerous law changes prevented IRS from identifying those taxpayers who could file simpler forms and tax preparers did not provide the easier forms; (5) although IRS improved the availability of its forms and publications, it planned to ensure that their availability was a high priority for the 1989 filing season; and (6) IRS planned to install an automated phone order system to improve its form ordering performance.

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