U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen recently announced significant advancements in the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) efforts to modernize its systems and enhance customer service. Yellen also stressed the importance of sustained funding for the IRS, warning that any budget cuts would hinder its ongoing improvements.
During her address at the IRS headquarters in Washington, Yellen revealed that the IRS would soon be able to electronically accept 20 additional tax forms by early 2024. These digital filing capabilities are part of a broader effort to streamline and update the IRS’s processes, making it easier for taxpayers to fulfill their obligations efficiently.
Yellen emphasized the IRS’s commitment to addressing the needs of taxpayers, pledging to answer 85% of all calls from taxpayers with an average wait time of five minutes or less. This ambitious goal represents a substantial improvement compared to the 2022 filing season when only 10-15% of calls were answered, with an average hold time of 30 minutes.
The Secretary underscored the significance of these improvements in customer service as a pivotal component of the $80 billion investment over a decade to bolster the IRS’s tax collections, audits, and the modernization of its antiquated systems. The investment aims to create a more efficient and responsive IRS that can better serve the American taxpayers.
However, Yellen cautioned against any potential reduction in funding for the IRS, particularly given the ongoing challenges the agency faces. Republicans in the U.S. Congress have traditionally opposed increased IRS funding and are currently seeking to cut IRS spending by $14.5 billion to provide aid to Israel. This move comes shortly after a debt ceiling deal curtailed planned IRS investments by approximately $20 billion over the span of a decade.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that such reductions in IRS spending, resulting from the Israel aid bill, could inflate the U.S. budget deficit by $27 billion over a decade. This outcome is largely attributed to a decrease in IRS audits and tax compliance, which would ultimately impact the government’s revenue.
In her prepared remarks, Yellen firmly expressed her stance on the matter, stating, “Playing politics with IRS funding is unacceptable. Cutting it would be damaging and irresponsible.” She highlighted the IRS’s critical role in collecting 96% of the federal government’s revenue, which fuels various national priorities, including national security, social security, healthcare, and infrastructure development.
The IRS’s endeavors to reduce paper-based processes and enhance digital capabilities have been a significant part of its modernization initiatives. Through its paperless processing initiative, the IRS has achieved the goal of enabling 94% of individual taxpayers to submit their documents electronically. This transition minimizes the need for physical mail correspondence with the IRS, offering a more convenient and efficient experience for taxpayers.
For the upcoming tax filing season in early 2024, the IRS will expand its digital capabilities by allowing 20 additional tax forms to be filed electronically. This development is expected to facilitate the submission of an additional 4 million paperless documents, including common business forms.
To further enhance customer service, the IRS has taken steps to increase accessibility. It has opened or reopened 50 taxpayer assistance centers, thanks to the new funding it received. Additionally, the IRS plans to extend the operating hours of these centers by a combined total of 8,500 hours in 2024. These measures are designed to provide taxpayers with better support and assistance when needed.
In conclusion, the IRS’s ongoing modernization efforts and commitment to improving customer service mark a significant step toward streamlining tax-related processes and accommodating the evolving needs of taxpayers. Janet Yellen’s call for continued funding is rooted in the belief that a well-supported IRS is crucial to the effective functioning of the federal government and the broader U.S. economy. As the IRS continues its journey toward digitalization and service enhancement, sustaining adequate funding is essential to achieving these goals.