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Why the IRS Says It Had to Hang Up on Millions of Taxpayer Calls

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"...courtesty disconnects..."

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told a Senate committee Wednesday that his agency has been forced to hang up on six million people who called in seeking help on their taxes, due to budget cuts that Congress has forced on his agency.

Koskinen testified in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, where he said cuts to his agency in response to the IRS targeting scandal have only hurt taxpayers. He said the average call waiting time is about 30 minutes, and said that only 40 percent of all the calls the IRS gets can be answered.

Calls that aren't answered are automatically disconnected.

"We've had over six million... the phone industry calls them 'courtesy disconnects,' " Koskinen said. "They're basically when the system gets overloaded, and we know you're going to be there too long, you will just simply get disconnected."

"So you aggravate the problem, because what happens is people have to call back," he added. "So on average, a lot people are calling two, three or four times just to get into that cue to wait for the half hour."

Koskinen has warned Congress several times that cuts to the agency have dramatically hurt the ability of the agency to help taxpayers pay taxes, and perform audits. The current IRS budget is $10.9 billion, which the IRS has said is its lowest budget in several years.

Earlier this month, Koskinen warned that failing to restore funding could threaten voluntary tax compliance around the country, which could deal a severe blow to the federal government's revenues.

The IRS has asked for $2 billion in new funding in 2016, about $500 million of which would be used to implement Obamacare. Still, Koskinen told the Senate committee that the IRS is managing to keep up with its enforcement duties under Obamacare so far.

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