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Why Paying Taxes Takes Longer

If paying taxes wasn’t bad enough, the process is expected to get even longer. That’s because the Internal Revenue Service needs more employees to take your payments.

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Hiring of revenue officers hasn’t kept pace with attrition, according to a study released this week by the IRS watchdog Treasury Inspector General For Tax Administration. The IRS doesn’t know how many officers are actually needed. In fact, it expects to lose revenue officers as fast as it can replace them, says the report.

The findings were based on a study of recent IRS hires in a unit that collects taxes from small businesses and the self-employed. The IRS division added more than 1,515 new revenue officers in three waves between June 2009 and February 2010 — 38% of the 4,002 officers on staff before the first wave began

Nearly two-thirds of the revenue officers who left the agency the last three years retired.

Responding to the report, the IRS said it has started to improve workforce planning across all of its collection programs.

The workload for tax collectors is only expected to grow, the report noted. The agency is closing delinquent tax accounts at the highest rates since fiscal year 2005, but new delinquent accounts are mounting.

Revenue officers are “mission-critical” for the IRS because they have a direct impact on the agency’s ability to collect taxes, the report said. But some tax advisers say IRS revenue officers are less effective now than in the past, probably due in part to a lot of turnover at the agency.

Individuals might find it harder to deal with the IRS when you owe back taxes, says Thomas J. Nichols, an attorney at Meissner Tierney Fisher & Nichols in Milwaukee, Wis.  Inexperienced staff may unintentionally make things more complicated than they need to be.

Readers, have you had to wait longer to pay taxes?

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About The Tax Blog

  • The Tax Blog brings together a team of award-winning tax journalists from the Dow Jones network and around the web to examine the tax issues, changes and legislation that affect families, investors and small business owners. Our contributors include Tax Report columnist Laura Saunders (WSJ), Tax Guy columnist Bill Bischoff and senior reporter Jilian Mincer (SmartMoney.com), retirement-focused reporter Anne Tergesen (WSJ), wealth management writer Arden Dale (Dow Jones Newswires), TaxWatch columnist Eva Rosenberg and personal finance reporter Andrea Coombes (MarketWatch), and reporter Alyssa Abkowitz (SmartMoney). They’ll provide the latest news and insight, mine the tax code for tips and loopholes, and answer your questions about tricky tax situations. Contact the The Tax Blog with ideas, suggestions or tax questions at thetaxblog@dowjones.com.

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