IRS rolls out artificial intelligence to help callers make payments and solve simple tasks

The Internal Revenue Service has unveiled a new artificial intelligence system that will reduce wait times to solve simple tasks and improve customer service.

The technology allows the new phone system to authenticate callers by asking them basic questions, IRS officials said during a conversation with reporters Friday. The new system can understand full and natural ways of speaking, they said.

“For the first time in 160 years, this agency can successfully communicate with a taxpayer who uses artificial intelligence to access and resolve their account in certain situations without any waiting time,” IRS Deputy Commissioner Darren Guillot said at the time. call. †

When taxpayers receive a letter in the mail saying they owe money, they can use an ID number from the letter to dial in and access the improved system, officials explained.

Frederick Schindler, the agency’s collection director, said his team has staggered the generation and sending of more than 3 million letters so that they will arrive in mailboxes in the coming days so that callers can take advantage of the new system.

PHOTO: In this photo illustration, an IRS logo is displayed on a smartphone.

In this photo illustration, an IRS logo is displayed on a smartphone.

SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images, FILE

The IRS’s efforts to improve its phone system come about three months after the regulatory agency said it would hire an additional 10,000 workers to help clear a pandemic-related backlog.

Expanding the phone bot with artificial intelligence shows an improvement over the previous phone system, IRS officials said. The previous unverified phone bot could only answer basic questions and allowed callers to set up one-time payments, they said.

That more basic technology, which prevents the system from opening someone’s IRS account, is also the technology behind an online chat box that the agency uses.

Due to the new bot’s authentication capabilities, it can access a caller’s IRS account. From there, callers can “discuss” and set up a payment plan with the bot without having to put on time on hold — a process that would normally take 17-20 minutes with a human operator, IRS officials said.

By letting the phone bot handle more simple problems, it frees up human operators for more complex cases, the IRS officials said.

Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Finance Wally Adeyemo recently told ABC News that “the IRS received more than 200 million calls last year and had only 15,000 people to answer those calls.”

Even with the intelligent phone bot, callers still have the option of talking to a human for additional support, IRS officials said.

Many callers owe less than $25,000 and can “state their price,” or the monthly amount they’re willing to pay. The artificial intelligence system then calculates that amount to determine whether it falls within the agency’s repayment deadline.

PHOTO: The Internal Revenue Service building is seen in Washington, DC, April 5, 2022.

The Internal Revenue Service building is on display in Washington, DC, April 5, 2022.

Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

The new bot will not guide callers to pay more than the price they quote, the officials explained.

While officials admitted during the conversation that the new phone bot will provide a return on investment through increased compliance, he said increasing government revenues was not the primary focus in developing the system.

“Service is part of our name,” Guillot said. “This is all about the taxpayer experience, helping customers,” he later said.

But not all callers will enjoy the waiting time that the authenticated phone bot provides. It was launched Tuesday only on the debit collection system and account management phone lines, the IRS officials said.

For now, it is operating at 25% of its target capacity, leading the bot to answer more than 13,000 calls on Thursday. The IRS plans to bring more of the system online by the end of next week, IRS officials said.

“We have phone lines to handle specific matters like liens or settlement proposals,” Schindler said. “In the future, there are use cases to bring this technology, especially as we learn more about it, into one of our collection processes.”

The bot currently operates in English and Spanish, and IRS officials hope to expand its language offering in the future, they said.

More immediate expansion plans include programming the verified bot to ask questions of callers calling their monthly payments to ensure it stays within their financial means, the officials said.

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