TAMPA (FOX 13) - The Internal Revenue Service has made some big mistakes in recent years and Congress responded by cutting its funding. Now, frustrated taxpayers say they're paying for it this tax season, including many in the Bay Area.
The IRS is asking Congress for an increase in funding next year after federal lawmakers slashed its budget following a series of controversies (including scrutiny of conservative activists, and questionable entertainment and travel expenses).
The agency received a $290 million infusion last year, but the IRS commissioner is lobbying for more to improve enforcement and customer service. Commissioner John Koskinen tied lapses in service last year to the budget cuts.
This year, while wait times have improved, FOX 13 News still gets complaints from frustrated taxpayers who say they're getting the runaround.
And 87-year-old Robert Fernandez relayed a complaint that could affect other taxpayers who are not tech savvy.
"They're driving everything online these days, and if you don't use a computer you're just out of luck," Fernandez said. "Computers are out of my bailiwick. I just wanted to get paper forms and an instruction booklet, but the shelves are bare"
Fernandez visited the IRS office in Tampa to pick up his forms and booklet, but after clearing through a security check, he discovered the office had no booklets to give him. Instead, he received a phone number to request forms through an IRS call center.
The call center informed him it would take two weeks to receive it by mail.
Concerned that he would not receive them by the federal tax deadline, he called FOX 13 News for help. We also tried the IRS office, but were referred to the call center, then told the forms may not arrive in time, and was then referred back to the IRS office, which referred us back to the call center.
"This is crazy," said Fernandez. "I've got a bad taste in my mouth for the IRS right now."
After two weeks of back-and-forth, Fernandez did receive his forms by mail, but he says the difficulty and wait time required just to receive forms with instructions are indicative of declining customer service - especially for seniors who do not have or do not use computers.