Whether you are a taxpayer or a tax professional, getting a question answered by an IRS representative over the phone has been an absolute nightmare in recent years, as a staff shortage at the agency has resulted in hold times averaging up to 23 minutes. And that is if your calls to the IRS get answered—of the 282 million telephone calls the agency received in 2021, approximately 32 million, or 11%, were answered.
But help is on the way.
The IRS announced on Oct. 27 that it has hired 4,000 new customer service representatives to answer phones and provide other services for the 2023 tax-filing season. These new staffers were hired over the past several months and are being trained to provide assistance to taxpayers, including answering phone questions, the IRS said today.
Over the past several months, the IRS has been given direct-hire authority, allowing the agency to quickly fill vacant positions, even offering jobs to qualified people on the spot. The goal set by the IRS in March was to hire 10,000 new employees in the next 12 months.
The IRS also will receive a boost to its budget of $80 billion over the next 10 years thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, which was passed by Congress in August. That funding will be used to hire more agents and update the agency’s antiquated technology.
“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,” outgoing IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig said in a written statement. “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 help is on the way for taxpayers. As the newly hired employees are trained and move online in 2023, we will have more assistors on the phone than any time in recent history.”
The customer service representatives being hired are in various stages of being onboarded, the IRS noted. They will receive several weeks of training to help serve people and improve the taxpayer experience. The training will cover a wide range of issues, including technical account management issues and understanding and respecting taxpayer rights.
The goal, according to the IRS, is to add another 1,000 customer service representatives by the end of the calendar year, bringing the total of new hires in this area to 5,000.
Many of the new employees will be ready for the start of the 2023 tax season, and others will join as their training is completed in the following weeks. Almost all of their training will be completed by Presidents’ Day 2023 (Feb. 20), which is traditionally the period when the IRS sees the highest phone volumes. The IRS anticipates phones will be answered at a much higher pace during the 2023 filing season.
“Even though we have new hires in the pipeline, our phone lines remain extremely busy,” said Rettig, whose four-year term as IRS chief expires on Nov. 12 and is not expected to serve another four years. “We continue 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. We appreciate taxpayers’ continued patience with us. Please know that we have dedicated employees across the IRS working hard every day to help people on the phone and in-person. IRS employees look forward to providing better service in the near future.”
In addition to the phone help, the IRS is also working to hire additional people throughout the agency, including in information technology and compliance.
“IRS employees make a difference for our nation, and we’re excited that we can add more people to serve taxpayers and support the critical work of tax administration,” Rettig said. “Positions will be open across the country in coming weeks and months, and we encourage potential candidates to visit USAjobs.gov to look for opportunities.”