IRS pilot tests not accepting payments at satellite offices

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service is considering whether to no longer accept walk-in customers seeking help or to make payments, the nation’s taxpayer advocate told Congress Friday.

“The IRS is conducting a pilot under which it will not even accept tax payments from walk-in taxpayers,” the agency’s National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson told a House panel on government operations Friday.

“Is that not insane?” asked Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, who chairs the subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that heard Olson’s annual report.

Olson’s report comes just days before federal income taxes are due on April 18.

“You have a willing taxpayer, willing to give some of their hard-earned dollars to the IRS, and show up. And they’re saying ‘we can’t take the payment because you don’t have an appointment.’ Is that correct?” asked Meadows

“That’s correct,” replied Olson.

Olson says Congress hasn’t adequately funded the IRS while saddling it with two new major jobs: administering the Affordable Care Act and cracking down on fraudulent Earned Income Tax Credit payments.

The IRS says it costs about $60 for every in-person taxpayer encounter. But Olson told lawmakers that the IRS must consider the consequences of cost-cutting moves like no longer allowing walk-ins.

“You may have spent $60, but you might have brought in $5,000 by serving that taxpayer in that walk-in site.”

And she says a trend of non-service could easily snowball within the IRS.

“The IRS will use the data of declining usages to justify further reductions in in-person service.”

Olson also blames declining customer service quality on what she calls misplaced priorities: more effort going after the tax cheats than helping honest taxpayers.

“Rather than designing tax administration around the small minority of taxpayers who are deliberately evading payment of tax, we should design our rules and procedures to make it easier and clearer for the willing taxpayers to comply.”

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