Oversight Board criticizes IRS tax center closure

A decision by the Internal Revenue Service to close 68 of its 400 walk-in tax assistance centers has come under additional criticism, this time by the IRS Oversight Board.

The tax agency announced the closures last month, citing decreased public demand for the centers and rising use of the agency’s Web site and toll-free number for direct tax assistance. The move could save the IRS almost $50 million a year.

However, the board’s chairman, Raymond Wagner, said in a statement that “obtaining service via the Internet is ideal for many taxpayers, but others may need personal assistance at an IRS walk-in center or over the toll-free telephone lines.”

“For the past few years, we’ve seen dramatic, positive changes in the services the IRS provides taxpayers,” Wagner said. “We must ensure those gains are not lost.”

The IRS’ decision was criticized earlier by Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, who predicted that the shutdown would hurt the quality of IRS customer service and result in lower rates of tax compliance. Closure of the centers affects about 450 employees.

In testimony before Congress earlier this year, Nina Olson, national taxpayer advocate at the IRS, said the agency “overestimates taxpayers’ ability or willingness to conduct complex financial transactions in an electronic or self-service format.”

Closure of the centers “at this time will irrevocably harm taxpayers,” she said.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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