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Biden EO calls for improved IRS phone, online options

President Joe Biden_White House podium_December 2021-1
One of President Joe Biden's acts as 2021 wound down was issuing an executive order calling for improvements at government agencies, including the IRS, to improve customer service. (White House Facebook photo)

The Biden White House says a recent Executive Order (EO) will make dealing with federal agencies easier. That includes the one with which almost every American interacts at some point, the Internal Revenue Service.

Improved IRS customer service is part of the Biden Administration's broader vision of ensuring that the federal government works for its citizens.

Toward that goal, President Joe Biden's Executive Order 14058 says the "Federal Government must design and deliver services in a manner that people of all abilities can navigate." Technology, notes the EO, can help to modernize government agencies and allow them to implement their services in more "accessible, equitable, protective, transparent, and responsive" ways.

Among the IRS services the EO has slated for such improvements are more productive telephone interactions and streamlined electronic tax transactions.

The tax community is hopeful, but definitely not convinced.

High-impact providers: The IRS is part of 36 customer experience (CX) improvement commitments across 17 federal agencies cited in Biden's EO 14058, which is this week's first-of-2022 By the Numbers figure.

The IRS already was designated (see highlight box in image below) by under Biden Administration's management agenda as one of Uncle Sam's 35 High-Impact Service Providers.

High-Impact-Federal-Agency-Providers
Click image for a larger view (or here for PDF) of the President's Management Agenda customer service graphic


The "Filing and Managing Your Taxes" section of the EO says that "the 240 million individuals and businesses who file tax returns each year and the 167 million people who call the IRS for help" should see —

  • Filers will save time by having the option to schedule customer support call-backs.
  • Filers will be provided with new online tools and services to ease the payment of taxes, which may include automatic direct deposit refunds based on prior year tax returns, tax credit eligibility tools, and expanded electronic filing options. 

That first bullet point is particularly appealing to taxpayers (and tax professionals) who've had to deal with the hold music earworms from waiting … and waiting and waiting … to talk to an IRS representative.

A callback option, already used by many private industry customer service telephone lines, to leave a phone number where they get a return call from an agent — without, as my cable TV service promises, losing your place in line — is a dream for those who've for years been part of the IRS hold nightmare.

Such changes, as noted in the accompanying EO fact sheet, would help the IRS and all targeted agencies "put people at the center of everything the Government does."

Immediate target, longer-term implementation: To be fair, Biden and his staff acknowledge that the vague directions in the aspirationally-titled Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery To Rebuild Trust in Government EO will take some time to be fleshed out and implemented.

At a press conference following the issuance of the order last month, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said it likely will be several months before the changes are fully implemented.

I'm thinking she's too optimistic.

The changes also will take money. Again, this requires some trust that Congress will OK sufficient dollars for IRS' current operations, as well as improved services.

Behind as 2022 begins: The IRS also will need some luck and good tax Karma.

Thanks to COVID-19 complications, the tax agency is still digging itself out of a very deep hole. As 2022 arrived, the IRS still had piles of backlogged tax forms, some from as far back as the 2020 tax year.

Plus, there's the coronavirus pandemic tax law changes that will complicate the coming season's filings.

But, hey, the attainment of every goal starts with a plan.

And the Biden Administration's wide-ranging management agenda and executive order — it covers not only taxes, but also services to veterans, students, retirees, business owners, families, and more — at least are a start.

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