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During the tax filing season, millions of taxpayers file their returns and seek assistance by calling or visiting IRS's offices or Web site. GAO was asked to assess IRS's 2003 filing season performance in five areas: processing returns, refunds and remittances; electronic filing; telephone service; walk-in assistance, and Web site. We assessed for each of those five areas (1) IRS's performance in 2003, including any factors that helped or impeded its efforts, (2) any new initiatives that were intended to improve IRS's performance in 2003, and (3) IRS's performance over past filing seasons.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Internal Revenue Service 1. The Commissioner of Internal Revenue should direct the appropriate officials to require that IRS consolidate and disseminate wait-time information to field managers based on information from sites equipped with an automated system that can capture wait-time data, in order to assess this important aspect of quality.
Closed - Implemented
IRS reinstated that the requirement for Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs, or "walk-in sites") to regularly report information to Field Assistance Headquarters on overall percentage of taxpayers waiting more or less than 30 minutes (for those sites equipped with full Q-Matic--the Service's traffic management and reporting system). TACs are required to report this information monthly to area managers, who consolidate it into a quarterly report for headquarters. More importantly, in time for the 2006 tax filing season, Field Assistance management began receiving weekly reports with significantly more detailed information on wait-times--reports pulled directly from the Q-Matic system. These reports included a break-down of wait-time intervals (no-wait, 1-30 minutes, 31-45 minutes, etc.) They also show both the actual number and percentages of taxpayers in the categories tracked by Q-Matic (forms, returns, tax law assistance, and others). Therefore, IRS has fully satisfied the first part of this recommendation. The Commissioner did not agree to disseminate consolidated wait-time information to field managers, noting that routine monitoring of wait-time occrus by local managers for walk-in sites equipped with full Q-Matic. However, at the time of the audit, there were only 140 of 400 walk-in sites equipped with some version of Q-Matic. By the 2006 filing season, IRS had rolled out full Q-matic to 224 of its 400 TACs (or 56 percent of sites). These sites handled 81 percent of all walk-in site traffic during the 2006 filing season. Therefore, for TACs handling the majority of face-to-face interactions, managers now have the information they need about wait-times to help them manage traffic in order to balance timeliness and quality of service. We believe that IRS has, therefore, satisfied the second part of this recommendation.

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