In 2024, Americans can expect a more streamlined tax filing experience, thanks to recent enhancements by the IRS. The tax agency revealed new features this week, allowing taxpayers to conveniently upload all correspondence, responses to notices, and documents electronically on its website. The improved “Where’s My Refund” tracker adds another layer of user-friendly functionality.
On the customer service front, the IRS has increased phone response rates and extended hours at in-person tax help centers. Funded by the Inflation Reduction Act, these initiatives aim to rebuild trust with taxpayers, addressing past criticisms of inadequate customer service. While more improvements are on the horizon, the IRS acknowledges its mixed track record in technological advancements.
Upcoming IRS Adjustments in the 2024 Tax Filing Season
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen emphasized the positive impact of these changes on Tuesday, noting that taxpayers will save time and effort, the IRS will reduce errors and storage costs, and overall processing times will see a significant boost. Taxpayers now have the convenience of digitally submitting all correspondence, non-tax forms, and responses to notices using the “Documentation Upload” tool on the IRS website.
To initiate the process, users enter their correspondence’s access code or select the letter type from the drop-down box during the upload. They can then submit photos or digital copies of documents, receiving confirmation of successful document submission. Previously, in February of this year, taxpayers were limited to digitally responding to only the nine most common correspondences. Prior to this update, all responses, explanations, and correspondence had to be sent via traditional mail, causing significant processing and refund delays.
The newly implemented electronic processing system brings about two key improvements to the tax system. It reduces the time taxpayers spend on responding to notices and receiving refunds, and it allows IRS agents to digitally record information, eliminating the need for manual entry. The IRS estimates that this change will transition 125 million paper documents to a digital format, with 94% of American taxpayers no longer requiring traditional mail for IRS communication.
Refund Tracking Enhancement
Previously, the tool often displayed a standard message indicating that the return was in the processing stage, with additional information available in the Frequently Asked Questions section. This often led taxpayers to contact the IRS for more detailed status updates on their returns.
The updated tool will now offer more precise and accurate responses when users check the status of their refund, including indications of whether they need to respond to an IRS letter requesting additional information. The enhancement also ensures seamless functionality on mobile devices, according to the IRS.
In 2022, the tool garnered 550 million hits, with approximately 54 million taxpayers utilizing it. The IRS anticipates that the new version will be accessed around 70 million times in the upcoming filing season.
The IRS is committed to maintaining its enhanced phone service in 2024. Over the past year, the agency has bolstered its customer service division, responding to the challenges faced during the pandemic and previous filing seasons.
In the 2023 filing season, the IRS achieved an impressive 87% response rate, attributed to the hiring of a significant number of new representatives. The agency aims to replicate this success in the 2024 filing season, with a target of maintaining an average wait time of 5 minutes for all callers. While wait times have been reduced this year, there is acknowledgment that tax phone representatives may not consistently provide accurate answers. The reliability of responses can vary depending on the individual answering the call.
Scott Hodge, President Emeritus and Senior Policy Adviser at Tax Foundation, remains cautious, stating, “Will [the IRS] give the proper responses? Until [the IRS] proves themselves, we have reason to be skeptical. At least you didn’t have to wait very long to get the wrong answer.”
In-Person Tax Support
The IRS is set to expand in-person tax assistance at Taxpayer Assistance Centers, adding over 8,500 hours nationwide. The agency has recently inaugurated or reopened 50 Taxpayer Assistance Centers across the country. Additionally, there will be more pop-up shops and community assistance events in hard-to-reach communities.
Grant Dougherty, enrolled agent and founder of Dougherty Tax Solutions, expressed optimism about these changes, stating, “I think these changes are good news. Anytime the taxpayer experience can be improved, I think it’s always a win for everyone involved. I do believe the [2024 filing season] will be a little smoother.”