The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced the creation of the first-ever Taxpayer Experience Office designed to focus on all aspects of customer service at the agency. The creation of the new office comes not long after National Taxpayer Advocate, Erin M. Collins, said in her annual report to Congress, "There is no way to sugarcoat the year 2021 in tax administration. The year 2021 provided no shortage of taxpayer problems."
Those problems include the fact that tens of millions of taxpayers experienced delays in the processing of their 2020 returns, and with 77 percent of individual taxpayers receiving refunds in 2021, "processing delays translated directly into refund delays."
The Taxpayer Experience Office is led by Chief Taxpayer Experience Officer, Ken Corbin, who also serves as commissioner of the Wage and Investment division, one of four primary IRS divisions that also includes Large Business and International, Small Business/Self-Employed, and Tax-Exempt and Government Entities. Among other activities, the Wage and Investment division oversees the current filing season.
- The IRS has announced a first-ever Taxpayer Experience Office to focus on all aspects of customer service.
- The office is led by Ken Corbin who is also commissioner of the Wage and Investment Division of the IRS.
- The office was envisioned by the Taxpayer First Act Report to Congress in January 2021 and designed to coordinate with the Taxpayer Advocate Service.
- The IRS established the Taxpayer Experience Office to follow the five-year strategic mission outlined in President Biden's Executive Order on Rebuilding Trust in Government.
- To remain relevant, the office will be expected to identify and act on changing taxpayer expectations and industry trends.
- Specific areas will include expanding customer callback, payment options, secure two-way messaging, and services for multilingual customers.
Envisioned by the Taxpayer First Act Report to Congress
While IRS processing problems from last year added impetus to the agency's desire to provide better customer service, the driving force behind the creation of the new office was the Taxpayer First Act Report to Congress issued on January 21, 2021.
The Taxpayer First Act Report included input from taxpayers, tax professionals, and the tax community, all of whom helped develop the strategy behind the Taxpayer Experience Office. The new office has a mandate to coordinate with the Taxpayer Advocate Service.
The Report to Congress names more than a hundred programs and tools, including a 360-degree view of taxpayer accounts that could help individuals when they interact with the IRS. Other ideas included expanded e-File and payment options, digital signatures, secure two-way messaging, and online accounts for businesses and tax professionals.
Five Year Focus
The Taxpayer Experience Office has identified key activities that the IRS intends to focus on over the next five years. These activities include commitments outlined in President Biden's Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government to:
- Ease the payment of taxes
- Provide the option to schedule customer support telephone call-backs
- Expand automatic direct deposit refunds based on prior year tax returns
- Provide tax credit eligibility tools
- Expand electronic filing options
"The IRS is committed to customer experiences that meet taxpayers where they are, in the moments that matter most in people's lives and in a way that delivers the service that the public expects and deserves," said Commissioner Corbin in a statement.
Adapting to Change
According to the IRS, the Taxpayer Experience Office plans to identify changing taxpayer expectations and industry trends, focus on customer service best practices, and promote a consistent voice and experience across all taxpayer segments by developing agency-wide taxpayer experience guidelines and expectations. This includes adding staff in coming months as part of the plan to help support the mission of the new office.
Corbin cited services the office expected to beef up including "checking the status of a tax return, meeting with a revenue agent for an audit, and receiving a tax credit in a bank account. "Improving service delivery and customer experience are fundamental priorities for us," he noted. "We're committed to designing and delivering services that better connect with our diverse taxpayer base."
Funding Remains an Issue
The creation of the new office alone doesn't solve the lack of sustained long-term funding for the IRS, something advocates insist is needed in order to truly improve customer service issues. On March 3, 2022, twenty former tax officials and experts sent a letter to the Appropriations Committees of both the House and Senate March 3, 2022, calling for additional funding for the IRS.
Coupled with concerns expressed by National Taxpayer Advocate Collins in February, advocates make a strong case for additional funding for the IRS. President Biden proposed $80 billion in IRS funding over the next decade, a move that has met with praise from Democrats and resistance from Republicans who cite what they call past scandals in the agency.