Will AI help the IRS deliver better customer service?

For several years the IRS has been bewitched, bothered and bewildered by the COVID-19 pandemic and legislative-related turmoil. Finding itself with a backlog in the multimillions of unprocessed business and personal tax returns, the IRS is adding artificial intelligence (AI) to its effort to respond to taxpayer needs.

Use of AI-powered software “voice bots” (short for robot) is being expanded to assist taxpayers with tax balances of $25,000, who can use the system to verify their identities for the purpose of requesting to start or to change their IRS payment plans .

Apart from payments, voice bots will help taxpayers with “general procedure responses” to Frequently Asked Questions on the agency’s Economic Impact Payment line. In February, the IRS began using voice bots for taxpayers needing help with reconciling for tax purposes their 2021 Advance Child Tax Credits.

Use of AI is already underway in many private businesses for supply chain management, robotics, and other tasks. The IRS’s move is driven by a combination of pragmatism, necessity – and perhaps, desperation. And the agency is planning increased use of voice bots in the future mainly to improve, under the weight of taxpayer inquiries, a rather dismal customer service record.

According to a June 20, 2021, report on CNBC, “Officially, the average phone wait time was 23 minutes in 2021, according to the National Taxpayer Advocate. But the agency has been struggling with staffing and increased call volumes. In its 2021 report to Congress, the National Taxpayer Advocate called out phone service as one of the most significant issues, noting that the agency only answered 11% of calls during fiscal year 2021.”

Leave a Comment