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If you receive a tax bill and want help from the IRS in setting up a payment plan, newly expanded voice bots can provide faster phone service, according to the agency† But some tax professionals are questioning the new plan to reduce waiting times.
Artificial intelligence-powered IRS speech bots can now help taxpayers set or change tax returns over the phone payment plans†
“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 in a statement. press. telephone call.
However, callers can still speak to an agent if they need to.
That may be easier said than done.
Officially, the average phone waiting time in 2021 was 23 minutes, according to the National Taxpayer Attorney† But the agency is struggling with staffing levels and increased call volumes. In its 2021 report to Congress, the National Taxpayer Advocate listed telephone service as one of: the main problemsnoting that during fiscal year 2021, the agency answered only 11% of calls.
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Here’s how the voting bots work: When you receive a bill from the IRS, you can call the agency and follow the voice prompts to verify your identity. By providing the caller ID from your IRS letter, the bots can share payment plan options and help set them up.
You may be eligible to use the service with a tax balance of $25,000 or less, which is the majority of IRS payment plans, according to agency officials.
Since January, the IRS has been using telephone-answering voice bots, which answer basic questions about payments or notifications, to reduce long wait times. However, the latest upgrade is the first chance for speech bots to solve a taxpayer’s problem.
Of course, complex issues, such as reduced sentences or hardships, may still require a live agent, the IRS said.
The agency plans to expand speech bot capacity to receive verified callers tax statementspayment history and the current balance due.
While the IRS expects the new expanded features to be fully implemented this week, some tax professionals are still dubious about the voting bots.
Dan Herron, a certified financial planner and CPA at Elemental Wealth Advisors in San Luis Obispo, Calif., said voice bots are a good idea for “really simple things,” like balance questions. But he is “very skeptical” of bots that set up payment plans with multiple moving parts.
In addition, speech bots without answers can cause further frustration for callers, said Adam Markowitz, an enrolled agent and vice president at Howard L Markowitz PA, CPA in Leesburg, Florida.
“Can anyone really get anything done through AI voice bots for any company, let alone the Internal Revenue Service?” he added.
Phyllis Jo Kubey, a New York-based registered agent and president of the New York State Society of Enrolled Agents, is optimistic about the expanded voice bots and applauds the agency for “more sophisticated automated assistance to taxpayers.”
However, she fears taxpayers will “bite off more than they can chew” and agree to unrealistic monthly payments when setting up a plan through the automated system.
“I hope the IRS has set up its AI to ask taxpayers if they can afford the monthly payment they agree on,” she said.
CNBC has contacted the IRS for comment.