Hold times on IRS phone calls may be seeing a substantial and much-welcomed reduction during the 2016 tax year, thanks in part to Oregon-based IT company, EnQ, Inc., creating a new service to transfer waiting calls to paying customers. Call Hold times over the past few years have been a growing problem, particularly in the midst of tax season, gradually increasing to nearly triple the average wait time of 2010. During the previous tax year of 2015, when call rates were at their peak, hold times averaged 30 minutes or longer and only about 38 percent of callers were able to reach a representative, as caller overload forced the switchboards to disconnect the majority of waiting customers on the line. EnQ Inc.’s new service will help mitigate this problem by having its company representatives make calls to the IRS on their customers’ behalf.
The representatives will sell their established place on the line to customers, cutting down on wait time and the chances of being disconnected. This new service promises to help reduce the wasted time and frustration of dealing with long hold times and tentative connections, an especially helpful tool for tax preparers and businesses. EnQ also projects unveiling a similar service for callers attempting to reach Social Security or tax authorities in the UK sometime in the future.
In addition to EnQ Inc.’s caller service, the IRS is also taking measures of its own to cut back on the wait times and disconnect problems that plagued the 2015 tax year. A recent congressional approval of a $290 million increase in budget will be put toward hiring 1,000 more representatives to handle calls and serve customers with more efficiency and in greater volume. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen spoke frankly in regards to the troublesome state of phone call holds and disconnected calls during the previous year: “We expect the level of service on the phone will be better than last year…the level of service last year was so bad that anything would be better.” With this raise in budget and phone representatives, the IRS hopes to prevent a repeat of last year’s performance and reverse the recent upward trend of rising hold times and disconnections. The IRS also recommends callers seeking answers about their taxes go online to irs.gov before placing a call in order to help reduce caller volume overall, but for those who need to make a call and don’t have the time to wait, EnQ Inc.’s caller service, combined with more representatives taking calls this year, should make for a less time-consuming experience overall.
For the coming tax year, the IRS’s goal is to raise the percentage of callers who reach their connection to 60 percent or higher while lowering hold times to 20 minutes or lower. The projections are still longer than average call times in 2010, but it is a considerable reduction of last year’s waiting time and suggests future improvement after years of decline in efficiency, aiming to make a more streamlined phone system for 2016 and potentially in years to follow.