It’s about to get harder to contact the IRS when you have problems

IRS and internet help

If you have a complication with your tax return it might soon be harder than ever to find a human IRS agent to answer your question.

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson sent her annual report to Congress this week and she is worried about the system being put in place to deal with questions and concerns. Her job as the national taxpayer advocate is to represent the interests of taxpayers.

The IRS has invested a lot of money to create a plan outlining how the agency will operate in five years, that plan isn’t public yet, but Olson says it’s not good news for taxpayers.

She notes that one of the new IRS guidelines is the creation of online taxpayer accounts to make it easier for taxpayers to get information and interact with the IRS.

That sounds great until you think about the potential downside.

“Implicit in the plan — and explicit in internal discussion — is an intention on the part of the IRS to substantially reduce telephone and face-to-face interactions with taxpayers,” Olson’s report says.

“It is incumbent upon the IRS to be much more specific about how much personal taxpayer assistance it expects to provide,” she adds.

Olson is worried that the IRS will not properly determine the reduction in phone and in-person staff and that will lead to a shortage of workers focused on offline taxpayers.

“Millions of taxpayers do not have Internet access, millions of taxpayers with Internet access do not feel comfortable trying to resolve important financial matters over the Internet, and many taxpayer problems are not ‘cookie cutter,'” the report┬áreveals.

She is also worried that a “pay to play” system will be implemented as worried taxpayers are forced to take their tax questions to paid tax preparers.

“Only taxpayers who can afford to pay for tax advice will receive personal service, while others will be left struggling for themselves,” she concludes.

The IRS has not yet commented on the concerns raised in Olson’s report.

Written by Jeff Springer

Jeff Springer

Jeff Spring is the Finance & Markets Editor at He's currently spending his days backpacking across Europe. While he may be living outside of the United States, he stays connected to American financial markets and M&A's more than is probably healthy for any single person. His love of a good book and a Bloomberg terminal can't be understated. He can be reached at