IRS troubleshoots E-Help program

Despite the IRS’ progress in its E-Help desk since its inception in 2002, customer service efficiency still needs improvement, the agency’s Office of the Inspector General said.

The audit cited many areas of deficiency in IRS customer service, including a lack of quality measures and procedures, insufficient employee training and inadequate customer satisfaction measurement.

In addition, the audit discovered inaccuracies in the program’s E-Help Support System and employee training, as well as the agency’s failure to use call monitoring and electronic case reviews to evaluate the quality of the program.

IRS will continue to expand its electronic services this year to include e-services for reporting agents and income verification express services, which provide two-business day processing and delivery of return transcripts.

“With this continued expansion in the availability and use of e-services, improvements are needed to ensure the program can continue to provide effective customer service,” said Michael Phillips, IRS deputy inspector general for audit.

In fiscal 2006, more than 74 million individual tax returns and more than 8 million business tax returns were electronically filed. The E-Help Desk Program assists taxpayers and tax professionals with registering for e-services, transmitting e-file tax returns and applying to be an electronic-return originator.

Auditors recommended that the agency develop a process to ensure timely customer satisfaction feedback, establish quality measures and evaluate the program’s success through the implementation of an operational quality review system, ensure that predetermined solutions to common problems are up-to-date and develop procedures to guarantee that management information is accurate.

After discovering that of 19 employees in a random sample, none had completed required training for the fiscal year 2006, the auditors suggested that IRS properly train all employees.

“Ensuring assistors complete required training will be of greater importance as the IRS moves forward with implementation of the next available technology,” said Phillips. “This will require all assistors to have training on all e-services supported by the program.”

IRS management agreed with all of the auditors’ recommendations and has developed plans to improve customer service at the E-Help desk.

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