IRS Tests New Appointment Program in Kalispell

Allowing taxpayers to make appointments with IRS employees could help with efficiency, agency says

By Molly Priddy

Along with the many joys of spring there comes a deadline most adults would rather not think about: April 15.

Tax day, the day on which individual income tax returns are due to the federal and state governments, can cause stress, anxiety, or just plain bad moods. But the Kalispell-based Internal Revenue Service tax-assistance center is testing out a way to make the April 15 deadline a bit easier on Flathead residents.

Beginning in February, the IRS launched a new appointment-based service approach for just 34 offices nationwide; Kalispell is the only Montana city that will be part of the test program.

The gist of the program is simple: instead of having taxpayers line up and wait in a queue for long periods of time, the taxpayers can instead call and make an appointment with the local office to go over their issues.

William Brunson with the IRS’ media relations team said the program was originally set to be tested at 10 of the larger IRS tax-assistance centers in the country, but was expanded to include midlevel and small markets as well.

In Kalispell, the appointment program began on March 2.

The new program is an attempt to see if the IRS can be more efficient despite budget cuts, Brunson said. In the last five years, Congress has decreased the IRS budget by 10 percent, leading to questions about whether the IRS can effectively continue serving the public.

Nina Olson, the national taxpayer advocate with Taxpayer Advocate Service, which is an independent office within the IRS, spoke to a congressional committee about the IRS budget on March 3.

“I do not think it is hyperbolic to say we are facing a crisis in taxpayer service,” Olson wrote in her statement; one of the sections of her report was titled, “The IRS Is Currently Failing to Meet Taxpayer Needs, Which Erodes Taxpayer Trust in the System and Undermines Voluntary Compliance.”

With these issues in mind, the IRS added the new appointment program to try to alleviate wait times and stress.

Brunson said that already, tax-assistance centers with the test program are finding ways to help. Taxpayers call in to make an appointment, and the assistance center employees hear what the appointment will be about. In some cases, Brunson said, the employees are able to direct the taxpayer to the IRS website, where they can find forms and use calculators, and the taxpayers end up not needing an in-person appointment.

Otherwise, just knowing they don’t have to wait in line for tax questions might help with the appointment, he said.

“We’re trying to not have a taxpayer wait in line and be told after they’ve been in line for a while they won’t be able to be seen that day,” Brunson said. “It also allows the taxpayer to know they’re going to be seen at a particular point in time so they can plan.”

Brunson encouraged taxpayers with questions to check out the IRS website, which has added functions and become a source for information and electronic filing services.

In Montana, the IRS expects 498,800 people to file taxes, he said, and 446,400 are expected to file electronically.

To make an appointment with the Kalispell IRS tax-assistance center, call 406-752-6636. The office is located at 275 Corporate Ave., Suite 120. To access the IRS website, visit www.irs.gov.

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