“It is abundantly clear that budget cuts – including those from sequestration – have had and continue to have serious detrimental impacts on timely service to taxpayers, including matters dealing with identity theft and expected refunds,” union president Colleen M. Kelley said in a statement.
In response to the budget crunch, IRS froze hiring and has implemented three furlough days, starting this summer, with another scheduled for late August.
“Those are days when taxpayers could not seek assistance and IRS employees had to put aside critical work,” Kelley said.
The IRS denied that budget cuts have held up refund processing or other services.
“I don’t know of any delays that are being caused as a result of budget cuts or sequestration,” Dobzkinski said.
Taxpayers calling the IRS hotline for help are facing longer wait times, and there are now fewer local Taxpayer Assistance Centers — more than 40 percent of which now have only one or two staff members — according to the National Taxpayer Advocate’s report. The agency failed to answer nearly 30 percent of customer service calls between October and late May, the report noted.
When Congress passed a bill changing numerous tax rules on Jan. 1, the IRS started processing returns about two weeks later than usual, and it didn’t accept certain returns until March 4. In addition, a glitch in software some taxpayers used to prepare their returns delayed refunds up to four weeks. The glitch affected about 660,000 people claiming education tax credits last February.
Last year, Carballosa’s refund arrived within a week. The IRS has offered no explanation about why this year’s check is in limbo, she said. Carballosa tried calling the agency’s taxpayer hotline three times but hung up after waiting on hold for more than an hour at a time.
“I’m so upset. I feel powerless,” she said. “It’s as if I don’t exist.”