RECRUITMENT IN PROCESS

The Taxpayer Advocacy Panel is Actively Recruiting

For more information, go to the Join TAP page

Search

Issue 40707

Improve International Access to the IRS

Issue or Project Statement:

International Taxpayers should not have to experience significant cost to get help from the IRS. As of now there is only one phone number (not toll free) listed for international taxpayers to get help from the IRS. This puts the burden of cost to get help on the taxpayer, and depending on the amount of calls and time, the cost could be substantial. It also could be a deterrent for a taxpayer to be compliant with their taxes.

Project Goal Statement:

Improve access and provide lower cost for international taxpayers to contact the IRS.

TAP RECOMMENDATION

1. Offer toll free numbers for our international callers.

2. The IRS could add links to their website to allow callers to use technical applications such as Google phone, Skype or other internet phone applications.

3. Forwarding calls from existing Social Security international numbers to a rep within the IRS.

4. Add an option to the app where a taxpayer could call directly to the IRS at no cost similar to Facetime or Messenger. 5. Provide information to international taxpayers about other communication options that would allow them to make free calls if a taxpayer cannot afford to contact the IRS.

Adopting some or all of the proposed changes would include the benefit of expanded service options available to international taxpayers who need to get help from the IRS without the burden of the cost falling on the taxpayer. We believe that improved quality of service at a lower cost or no cost to international taxpayers would encourage these individuals to stay compliant with their taxes.

Possible barriers to adopting these proposals include the cost that would be involved in having a toll-free number for international taxpayer or adding a link to the IRS app. Another barrier would be the possible time and training that would be involved with forwarding calls from the existing Social Security international numbers to a rep within the IRS.

IRS Action:TAP reviewing IRS response

1. We agree, it would be nice to provide toll-free telephone service to taxpayers outside the United States.

Currently, international callers use local numbers that are forwarded via local switch to the toll-free network (TFN), that feed into IRS. The caller will be charged for the international call to the local billing telephone number (BTN) in Philadelphia. International Toll Free services do exist in the marketplace, however, IRS does not currently have a contractual option in place to introduce such services. Our carrier, Verizon, offers the service but we currently don’t have the option or ability to procure international toll-free services Finally, we’d need to investigate technical viability within our current IP environment to ensure the service would align with our contact center call processing. We will not be implementing this recommendation.

2. Thank you for your recommendation regarding telephone service for international taxpayers. The IRS has not looked at it recently, but when the issue of high cost international calls is discussed the internet phone is part of the conversation.

As part of our discussion we have looked at the internet phone service, and each of these services, and others allows the caller to connect via IP from one subscriber to another. We are not a subscriber and cannot endorse the use of one service over another, at least without a competitive procurement action. Even if that were done, we do not know if it is possible to take such a call and queue it. This would only work if the service had a connection to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), so a subscriber could call one of our numbers and then be queued. We will not be implementing this recommendation.

3. Based on our research, the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not provide toll-free telephone services to international callers. We will not be implementing this recommendation for SSA to transfer calls to the IRS.

4. The IRS has not looked at it recently, but when the issue of high cost international calls is discussed the internet phone is part of the conversation.

As part of our discussion we have looked at the internet phone service, and each of these services, and others allows the caller to connect via IP from one subscriber to another. We are not a subscriber and cannot endorse the use of one service over another, at least without a competitive procurement action. Even if that were done, we do not know if it is possible to take such a call and queue it. This would only work if the service had a connection to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), so a subscriber could call one of our numbers and then be queued. We will not be implementing this recommendation.

5. IRS.gov provides information to international taxpayers, as well as resident and non-resident aliens. All the Interactive Tax Assistant (ITA) topics provide the following guidance and link, “For information regarding nonresidents or dual-status aliens, please see international taxpayers.

In some cases, if the taxpayer has an international mailing address, they may be able to register for the Online Payment Agreement and Tax Compliance Check applications by receiving an activation code sent by postal mail.

Our Privacy, Governmental Liaison, and Disclosure (PGLD) Operating Division continues to identify options and solutions for all taxpayers to authenticate online, including international taxpayers. When the authentication issue is addressed for international taxpayers, Online Account will provide options for international taxpayers to view their payoff amount, balance owed for each tax year and payment history. Along with viewing information, taxpayers can select an electronic payment method or request tax transcripts for more detailed information.

We have not looked at it recently, but when the issue of high cost international calls is discussed the internet phone is part of the conversation.

We have looked at the internet phone service, and each of these services, and others allows the caller to connect via IP from one subscriber to another. We are not a subscriber and cannot endorse the use of one service over another, at least without a competitive procurement action. Even if that were done, we do not know if it is possible to take such a call and queue it. This would only work if the service had a connection to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), so a subscriber could call one of our numbers and then be queued.

icon
current report

2019 TAP Annual Report

The 2019 TAP Annual Report highlights our key recommendations to improve IRS customer service and summarizes our key accomplishments and activities, including the 224 recommendations submitted to the IRS in 2019.

Download