The IRS has never been known for its customer service. However, information regarding the agency’s performance in 2015 for the 2014 tax year reveals an agency that has hopefully hit rock-bottom in how far its treatment of taxpayers calling in with issues has fallen. According to stats recently released, more than two-thirds of taxpayer calls to the IRS went unanswered and were eventually dropped. For those that did mange to speak with an IRS representative, the time on hold averaged 23 minutes. Still other problems remain with the IRS’ phone systems, but the effect experienced by taxpayers is a lack of information regarding tax obligations, questions about Affordable Care Act (ACA) tax obligations and implications, guidance after fraud attempts, FBAR & FATCA questions, and a host of other tax questions.
Suspicion of Tax Fraud or a Tax Scam? Only 17 Percent Got Through to the IRS
Reports of Stolen Identity Return Fraud (SIRF) have been widespread this tax season as both small-time criminals and organized criminal organizations have executed this scheme with terrifying regularity across communities in all parts of the United States. At its essence, a SIRF scam involves the use of stolen personal information to fraudulently claim the tax refund of another individual. Typically, the use of a Social Security number along with other personally identifying information is used to gain access to file a fraudulent tax return that directs the IRS to send the refund electronically or by mail to an account or mailbox under the scammer’s control. When the taxpayer legitimately files his or her taxes, he or she will come to find that there is quite a difficult mess to correct that, if improperly handled, could result in a tax audit or investigation.
In fact, the problem presented by SIRF has become so severe that the callers who contacted the IRS due to having their tax return blocked by the Taxpayer Protection Program (TPP) had extreme difficulty in reaching the agency. In fact, only 19 percent of calls motivated by TPP were answered by the IRS. That is, over 80 percent of taxpayers calling in for help because of suspected fraudulent activity affecting their filing were unable to receive any help. Even those individuals that did manage to speak to an IRS representative only reached an agent after sitting on hold for an average of about 28 minutes. Taxpayers that did not have the right documents available or who were unprepared to handle the issue were likely forced to wait for an agent again – if their call wasn’t dropped.
Affordable Care Act/Obamacare Tax Questions? Don’t Count on the IRS
Unfortunately for taxpayers, the 2014 tax year also represented the first year where many Obamacare/Affordable Care Act (ACA) tax questions moved from theory to reality for Americans. Among these tax questions is the individual mandate that required Americans to secure health coverage or to pay a penalty with their taxes. Americans were required to tell the IRS if they had secured the required coverage. Millions of others taxpayers, for the first time, reported that they qualified for health care subsidies. Those who qualified for healthcare subsidies received about $3,000 in the form of tax credits per a tax return. Others – 10.7 taxpayers to be exact – reported that they were exempt from fines for non-coverage.
However, researchers have identified at least 300,000 taxpayers who overpaid their fines. By and large, most of these 300,000 taxpayers were actually exempt from paying the fine because their level of income was low enough as to qualify for exemptions. The average fine paid by taxpayers for non-coverage under the ACA is $190. One can only expect that if taxpayer assistance from the IRS was more readily available, even fewer taxpayers would have made under or overpayments on their taxes due to the Affordable Care Act.
Tax Questions or Tax Problems?
Taxpayers seeking help from the IRS should understand that the IRS and its agent aren’t necessarily your friend nor do they have your best interests in mind. If that wasn’t enough, it can be frustratingly difficult or impossible to even get a hold of an agent at the IRS. However, the experienced attorneys of the Hoffman Tax Law Office can act as your tax resource and be your single stop for all tax-related questions and problems. We can handle difficult, substantive tax issues for our clients. To schedule a free, confidential tax consultation call us at 800-897-3915 or contact us online.