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Taxpayer Advocate Swamped with Calls as Virus Limits Aid Options

April 9, 2020, 7:48 PM

The Taxpayer Advocate Service’s local offices are getting slammed with more than 38,000 total calls per week as taxpayers seek out assistance for their issues during the new coronavirus pandemic.

The virus has forced the Internal Revenue Service to close all of its major facilities, causing the agency to suspend the majority of its customer service phone lines until it’s able to get more employees the technology they need to do their jobs remotely.

  • The central phone line for the Taxpayer Advocate Service, which assists taxpayers with problems they have with the IRS, isn’t available but individuals can still call their local advocate offices, said Bridget Roberts, the deputy national taxpayer advocate.
  • “Because we are the only people who are actually really still answering the phone, as you can imagine, we have been swamped,” she said Thursday on a webcast hosted by the American Bar Association. That means response times might be delayed, Roberts said.
  • The 77 local offices are getting on average about 100 calls a day, which is 38,500 calls total over a five-day work week, she said.
  • At the same time, while all Taxpayer Advocate Service employees can work remotely, that’s not currently true for the IRS, she said. The agency’s staffing issues are affecting TAS’s ability to resolve cases because in order to do so there has to be an IRS employee available who can help work through the taxpayer’s problem, Roberts said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Allyson Versprille in Washington at aversprille@bloombergtax.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Patrick Ambrosio at pambrosio@bloombergtax.com; Yuri Nagano at ynagano@bloombergtax.com

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