Tax Administration:

A Generally Successful Filing Season in 1991

GGD-91-98: Published: Jun 28, 1991. Publicly Released: Jun 28, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) performance during the 1991 tax filing season, focusing on the: (1) accuracy and accessibility of toll-free telephone assistance; (2) availability of tax materials at distribution centers and walk-in offices; and (3) returns processing by the 10 service centers.

GAO found that: (1) the accuracy of IRS answers to taxpayers' law questions through the toll-free telephone assistance program improved from 77 percent in 1990 to 84 percent in 1991, just one percentage point less than the IRS goal for 1991; (2) tests indicated that taxpayers should have found forms and publications readily available; (3) seven service center inventories of returns needing special attention during processing were at levels that IRS considered manageable, and receipts into six such inventories during the 1991 filing season were down from 1990; (4) the percent of processing errors made by service center staff continued a downward trend since 1988, as did the percentage of returns involving errors by taxpayers and preparers; (5) 7.5 million taxpayers filed returns electronically, 21 percent more than IRS expected; (6) more taxpayers filed the simpler form 1040A than in 1990; and (7) taxpayers continued to have difficulty reaching an IRS telephone assistor, since telephone assistors took more time in 1991 to determine the specific details of taxpayer questions before providing answers and call sites devoted more time to assistor training.