Tax Administration:

How Precise Are IRS Estimates of Taxpayers Calling for Assistance?

GGD-89-31: Published: Feb 21, 1989. Publicly Released: Feb 21, 1989.

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In response to congressional and administrative concerns over the amount of resources devoted to the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Taxpayer Service Program, GAO reviewed the IRS approach for estimating demand for telephone assistance and for determining the level of telephone service provided to taxpayers.

GAO found that IRS used telephone demand estimates to: (1) develop budgetary projections; (2) determine the level of service provided to taxpayers; and (3) manage and operate its telephone sites. GAO also found that: (1) IRS defined its telephone demand as the estimated number of persons calling for assistance; (2) although IRS reasonably assumed that a portion of unanswered calls were redial attempts and were related to system congestion, GAO could not verify the accuracy of IRS demand estimates; (3) IRS calculated its level of service by dividing the number of calls answered by the estimated number of callers; (4) other telecommunications organizations based their level of service on total call volume, but that method overstated the number of individual callers due to the large number of busy signals and redial attempts; and (5) because of demand estimate uncertainties and because the estimates are the primary basis for developing budget requests, IRS needs to provide Congress with more complete service information.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: IRS began including the recommended information in its budget submission.

    Recommendation: To provide Congress information with which to more fully assess the toll-free telephone assistance program and help determine the level of funding the program warrants, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should provide in IRS budget submissions to Congress level-of-service information based on both estimated demand and actual call volume data from the prior fiscal year. This information should include the estimated number of persons calling IRS for service, the percentage of those assisted, the total call volume, and the percentage of calls answered.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service


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