USA TODAY US Edition
IRS help centers are out of reach
Population shifts but offices don’t
While the IRS has more than 400 tax assistance centers around the USA, more than a third of taxpayers have to travel at least half an hour to find one, a new report from the Treasury Department’s Inspector General for Tax Administration says.
The report said the location of the centers, intended to provide a way for taxpayers to get inperson help from the IRS, hasn’t kept up with geographic and demographic shifts in the U.S. While 35% of taxpayers have to travel 30 minutes or more to find a center, the report said, 28% of the population lives within 30 minutes of more than one IRS office. Some examples: -The six New England states make up an area that’s onefourth the size of Texas with 10 million fewer people, but New England has seven more assistance centers than Texas.
-Michigan has six centers that serve 10 million people in an area that’s twice the overall geographic size of West Virginia. West Virginia has seven centers that cover1.8 million people.
-Florida has nearly 50% more residents and is nearly 25% larger than Pennsylvania, but has only 18 centers vs. 21 in Pennsylvania.
“The important role that Taxpayer Assistance Centers provide the American people cannot be overstated,” J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, said in a statement. “It is clear that most people will pay what they owe if they can figure out what is due to the IRS. It is imperative that the IRS takes every step to ensure that the taxpayers have the ability to ask questions and receive correct answers as they labor to fulfill this most important civic duty.”
In response, the IRS said it plans to look for better ways to align its centers with taxpayer needs, particularly as leases expire on existing offices.
Separately, the IRS announced that nearly 100 of its offices will be open Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. to answer questions and help taxpayers with their returns. Taxpayers can search for participating offices at irs.gov.