IRS Welcomes Jump in Taxpayers Using Its Website

Call volume around President’s Day expected to strain staff.

The Internal Revenue Service on Thursday announced that visitors to the website have risen by 20 percent over last year’s rate, and that the percentage of taxpayers filing electronic returns climbed to 96 percent.

Both developments are welcome because Commissioner John Koskinen has warned that budget cuts will leave the staff at taxpayer help lines overwhelmed and callers waiting.

The agency has long chased its goal of increasing electronic tax returns. Earlier this week the Government Accountability Office in its report on high-risk programs recommended that Congress consider making e-filing mandatory.

The tax agency reported that use of the website’s “Where’s My Refund?” tool to check the status of a refund “is up 91 percent, compared to the same time last year.” The IRS so far has received 27.5 million returns and issued 19.7 million refunds worth more than $66 billion, up slightly from last year’s totals.

On Friday, the National Treasury Employees Union issued a statement again warning that the IRS “will face jammed phone lines and long hold times during the President’s Day holiday,” noting that the agency estimates it will be able to answer only 43 percent of inquiries. “The agency’s struggle to provide the best telephone customer service it can will also highlight the need for Congress to provide the IRS with the resources it needs to serve the taxpaying public in a satisfactory manner,” NTEU National President Colleen Kelley said.