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IRS Introduces Pilot Program to Foil Line-Cutting Services

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Oct 26, 2022

GettyImages-174879501 IRS Internal Revenue Service

The IRS has introduced a pilot program aimed at enabling practitioners to get through to its professional support line by thwarting third-party vendors that use bots to help their clients jump to the head of phone lines, the Journal of Accountancy and Accounting Today reported.

The recent changes to the tax agency’s Practitioner Priority Service (PPS) were in response to the use of auto-dialing and robocalling technology used by third-party vendors, which allowed their clients to reach the IRS ahead of others through the use of bots. One such vendor, EnQ, boasts on its website that it can “cut your hold time by up to 90%.”

Under the new pilot program announced last week, the IRS will use speech recognition technology. It will require callers to repeat phrases to ensure that they are real live human beings before being transferred to a customer service representative.

"The new process is intended to improve customer service by reducing unnecessary wait times," the IRS wrote in an email to tax professionals last week when the program was announced.

"To the extent that these changes will improve services for all practitioners, we're pleased," said Ed Karl, the AICPA's vice president for tax policy and advocacy.

Long waiting periods and the inability of taxpayers and practitioners alike to reach customer service representatives have long plagued the IRS help lines. These issues were addressed in a letter to the IRS’s director of customer account services in the Wage and Investment Division, Dietra Grant, from AICPA Tax Executive Committee Chair Jan F. Lewis in August.

While acknowledging the efforts made by the tax agency to cope with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and to address other taxpayer and practitioner concerns, Lewis pointed out the faults of the PPS. The letter contains numerous recommendations, including improved training for PPS staff, discontinuing the practice of asking practitioners for their dates of birth and Social Security numbers, and enhancement of a new automatic return call system.

In National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins' June report to Congress, she noted that the IRS received 78 percent more calls by midyear 2022 than it did at the same time in 2019 and answered 10 percent of the calls this year, compared with 25 percent in 2019.

"The IRS continues to receive heavy call volumes and is taking steps to improve our service to callers like employing voice bot and chatbot technology and customer callback," Timothy McCormally, acting director of the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility, wrote in an email to the Journal of Accountancy.

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