Associated Press, January 15, 2015
WASHINGTON (AP) — Filing a federal tax return is about to get more complicated for millions of families because of President Barack Obama’s health law. But they shouldn’t expect much help from the Internal Revenue Service.
Got a question for the IRS? Good luck reaching someone by phone. The tax agency says only half of the 100 million people expected to call this year will be able to reach a person.
Callers who do get through may have to wait on hold for 30 minutes or more to talk to someone who will answer only the simplest questions.
“Taxpayers who need help are not getting it, and tax compliance is likely to suffer over the longer term if these problems are not quickly and decisively addressed,” said a report Wednesday by agency watchdog Nina E. Olson.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen says budget cuts are forcing the agency to reduce taxpayer services and other functions. The number of audits will decline, technology upgrades will be delayed and the agency might be forced to shut down and furlough workers for two days later this year, Koskinen said.
The IRS will no longer help low-income taxpayers fill out their returns, and tax refunds could be delayed for people who file paper returns.
“It couldn’t be worse timing,” Koskinen said of the budget cuts.
Congress cut the IRS by $346 million for the budget year that ends Sept. 30. Koskinen says the agency’s $10.9 billion budget is its lowest since 2008. When adjusted for inflation, the budget hasn’t been this low since 1998, he said.