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Only 2% of Calls to IRS Get Through

Updated: May 18, 2021

IRS taxpayer service is terrible. It's not the IRS's fault - the fault for this lies at the feet of Congress for failing to provide sufficient funds for the IRS to do its job. I have been advising my clients for many years to send a letter to the IRS rather than calling on the phone. I consider it a waste of time to try to do business with them over the phone, unless you have a direct line to the person you need to talk to.

Today, April 22, 2021, Erin M. Collins, the IRS Taxpayer Advocate, posted an update on her blog about 2021 IRS taxpayer service challenges. Here are some of the highlights.

IRS employees have managed to answer about 2 per cent of the roughly 70 million taxpayer calls to the IRS's 1040 telephone line. The average wait time on hold for the lucky ones is 20 minutes. The IRS has seen an increase in call volume this year of 300 percent.

Many of the calls are frustrated taxpayers trying to ascertain the status of their refunds. If a taxpayer is one of the lucky ones to get through, it’s unlikely IRS employees can provide much useful information regarding the reason for the delay. The IRS systems don’t identify why returns need manual intervention, which is usually the cause of the delay. The most common reasons for delay are:

  • errors on returns,

  • claims for education and earned income tax credits,

  • possible identity theft or fraud issues, or

  • delays between the time the IRS issues the refund and the time it is direct deposited into the taxpayer's bank account.

As of April 9, 2021 more than eight million individual returns were "in suspense", awaiting review and manual processing. In addition, other IRS units had backlogs of unprocessed returns awaiting manual processing:

  • 3 million individual 2019 and 2020 paper returns

  • 7 million individual returns with processing errors or fraud identification issues requiring responses from taxpayers, and

  • 11 million business and other returns.

The IRS is now holding over 29 million returns for manual processing.

You can find the full blog post at

- Mark S Gleason CPA

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