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Editorial: IRS customer phone service grossly lacking

Tuesday, January 8, 2002

Customers calling the IRS for help with their tax returns are waiting 15 percent longer to talk to a representative than they did in 2000, and they must wait on average about four minutes, the General Accounting Office says.

That probably won't surprise any of the 70 million people who called the IRS in 2001.

But another finding is both surprising and disturbing:

The GAO found that about 25 percent of the time, customers asking questions about tax law were given incorrect information, and about 12 percent of the time, customers asking questions about their account were given incorrect information.

The IRS says it is trying to remedy the problems, but that offers little comfort to taxpayers who turn to the agency for help in filling out their returns.

If the IRS can't get it right, how can it expect taxpayers to avoid costly mistakes on their returns?

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