If you’ve spent time in phone purgatory trying to get customer service help from the IRS, this week brought good news. The tax agency said it has taken major steps ahead of the 2023 tax season to help it avoid many of the customer service problems that have plagued it the last couple of years.
In an Oct. 27 announcement, the IRS said it has passed a milestone of hiring 4,000 new customer service representatives to help answer phones and provide other services. The new staff have all been hired over the past few months and are being trained to provide help to taxpayers — including answering phone questions.
The bulked-up staff is part of a broader IRS improvement effort tied to Inflation Reduction Act funding approved in August.
“The IRS is fully committed to providing the best service possible, and we are moving quickly to use new funding to help taxpayers during the busy tax season,” Commissioner Chuck Rettig said. “Our phone lines have been simply overwhelmed during the pandemic, and we have been unable to provide the help that IRS employees want to give and that the nation’s taxpayers deserve.”
But, he added, “help is on the way” in the form of more customer service phone representatives than at “any time in recent history.”
Many of the new reps are still in the process of being onboarded. Once they join the IRS, they’ll undergo a weeks-long training program that will cover everything from handling technical account management issues to understanding taxpayer rights. The goal is to add another 1,000 customer service reps by the end of 2022, bringing the total of new hires to 5,000.
Many employees will be in place for the start of the 2023 tax season, while others will join as their training is completed in the following weeks, the IRS said. Nearly all of their training should be completed by Presidents Day 2023, which falls on Feb. 20. This is traditionally the period when the IRS sees the highest phone volumes. The agency anticipates phones will be answered at a “much higher level” during the 2023 filing season than previous seasons.
During fiscal year 2021, the IRS received a record 282 million calls, Accounting Today reported, citing an analysis from the National Taxpayer Advocate. Of those calls, only 32 million, or 11%, were answered by customer service reps.
The IRS noted that improvements at the agency — including its new direct hire authority — have speeded up the hiring process compared with previous years. It has taken less than three months to fill the 4,000 new positions in 2022, compared to around eight months to hire customer service representatives in 2021.
Even with the new hires in place, the IRS phone lines “remain extremely busy,” Rettig said. The agency continues to urge people to first visit IRS.gov for information related to their tax questions.
“Many of the questions we receive can be answered online, providing faster answers for people than calling,” Rettig said.
In addition to hiring customer service reps to take phone calls, the IRS is also working to hire more people in Information Technology and compliance positions.
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