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Don't depend on internet searches to find IRS TAC info

IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center front view_Wikipedia

The Internal Revenue Service has held two special walk-in Saturdays this year at its Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) across the United States. Two more are scheduled for April and May.

The no-appointment-needed sessions are welcomed by taxpayers who need help (note, however, that the TAC reps aren't offering tax return filing assistance), as long as you can find them.

A recent report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) found that's not always easy, especially if you search online for a TAC office.

Issue reported by the IRS: To the IRS' credit, the agency brought this concern to TIGTA. The IRS Commissioner's Deputy Chief of Staff contacted the tax oversight office after a citizen at an IRS town hall meeting on employee safety raised the issue.

IRS employees indicated some internet search engine results incorrectly list IRS sites as being TACs or facilities that provide walk-in assistance to taxpayers. The Deputy Chief of Staff told TIGTA that this incorrect information was causing confusion with taxpayers.

TAC info wrong via search engine_TIGTA report 29February2024

It also obviously frustrates visitors to non-TAC offices who are told that they can't get IRS assistance.

These situations also pose potential safety and security issues for IRS employees. Taxpayers may become angry when they are not assisted at a site they believe, via an online search, should be open to help them.

Additionally, the wrong TAC address situation puts a burden on taxpayers who travel to IRS offices and cannot get their tax issues addressed.

This weekend's Saturday Shout Out goes to TIGTA, and the IRS personnel who raised the concern, for looking into the TAC address matter. You can read the full report, "Actions Need to Be Taken to Address Inaccurate Internet Search Engine Taxpayer Assistance Center Location Information Which Poses a Threat to Employee Safety," for details.

Below are some of the report's highlights.

What TIGTA web surfers found: TIGTA investigators used one of the most popular search engines to conduct a specific keyword search in order to determine whether information regarding an IRS office was accurately reflected in the results.

The results were distressing.

TIGTA identified nearly 600 errors, as indicated in the table image below taken from the report.

TAC search engine errors_TIGTA report 29February2024

If you're reading on a small device, here are the error figures the TIGTA searches found.

  • 158 total errors when searching "IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers + State" for all 50 States, as well as for Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.
  • 158 total errors when searching "Internal Revenue Service + State" for a judgmental sample of 10 States (California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas).
  • 278 total errors when searching "IRS + State" for all 50 States, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C.

TIGTA compared search engine results with TAC information that is available on IRS.gov, and identified four categories of search engine results that require updating. They are —

  1. Missing TAC information,
  2. Incorrect type of IRS office listed,
  3. Incorrect address or duplicate listing, and
  4. Incorrect hours of operation or contact information.

TIGTA conclusions and recommendations: While TIGTA could not confirm whether there have been a substantial number of instances where taxpayers arrived at non-TAC locations, it pointed out that there is still a need to ensure that IRS employees remain safe in the workplace.

Plus, notes the report, the IRS has an obligation to ensure that information provided to taxpayers is up-to-date and accurate.

Unfortunately, the IRS does not have a function designated to fully manage and update information pertaining to IRS locations on external search engines.

So to deal with this TAC address confusion, TIGTA recommended that the IRS designate an office to be responsible for updating the tax agency's information on external search engines. Each listing should have language referring taxpayers to the IRS website where taxpayers can obtain the most up-to-date information.

IRS action: The IRS agreed with the recommendation and has taken appropriate corrective action, notes TIGTA.

Specifically, Karen S. Howard, director of the IRS Office of Online Services, told TIGTA that the agency has, in part, "established a business account with one Internet search engine company to include the IRS's Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC) sites and Taxpayer Advocate Service office location information. As part of establishing this account, the IS can update information for the TACs  and Taxpayer Advocate Service offices when inaccuracies are discovered."

Howard also noted that IRS.gov has revised language on its local office info page that could be unclear about what services are offered at various sites and when.

"While the IRS cannot always control external online information, the IRS strives to manage what guidance it can accurately," Howard wrote in a letter included as an appendix to the TIGTA report.

The bottom line is be careful of what you find online. If you're looking for IRS information, go directly to the agency's website.

As for the coming TAC walk-in Saturdays on April 13 and May 18, you can find that information at IRS.gov, and, of course, here at the ol' blog as those dates near.

You also might find these items of interest:



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