Tax Administration:

Improvements in IRS' Telephone Assistor Accuracy

GGD-92-139FS: Published: Sep 22, 1992. Publicly Released: Sep 22, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed the improvement of the accuracy rate for Internal Revenue Service (IRS) assistors who answer telephone calls from taxpayers, focusing on identifying the reasons for accuracy improvements and factors that may limit further improvements.

GAO found that: (1) assistors' accuracy rate on a set of test questions improved from 63 percent in 1989 to 88 percent in 1992; (2) the improvements primarily resulted from increased management emphasis on accuracy, through such activities as establishing site accuracy goals in performance contracts, closer monitoring of assistors, managers working more closely with quality assurance staff, increasing use of assistors trained in speciality areas, and using a standard probe and response guide; (3) sustaining the improvements or further improvement will be difficult and costly if IRS does not resolve such staffing and training problems as hiring and retention difficulties because of stressful work and low salaries, and inadequate and costly training; (4) to overcome staffing and training problems, individual call sites have targeted recruiting efforts, conducted testing to determine training needs, offered remedial and refresher training, included managers in training sessions, and hired more permanent and fewer temporary employees; and (5) like some successful firms, IRS has consolidated and centralized some call sites to make operations more efficient and improve service quality.

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