Tax experts ‘very skeptical’ of expanding IRS voice robots for payment plans

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If you receive a tax bill and want help from the IRS to set up a payment plan, newly expanded voice robots can speed up phone service, depending on the agency. But some tax experts doubt the new plan to reduce waiting times.

AI-powered IRS voice bots can now help taxpayers over the phone set up or make changes to payment plans.

“For the first time in 160 years, this agency is able to successfully interact with a taxpayer by using artificial intelligence to access and resolve their account, in certain situations, without any wait,” the deputy said. IRS Commissioner Darren Guillot in a press release. call.

However, callers can still speak to an agent if needed.

That might be easier said than done.

Officially, the average phone wait time was 23 minutes in 2021, according to the National Taxpayer Advocate. But the agency has struggled with staff and increased call volumes. In its 2021 report to Congress, the National Taxpayer Advocate called telephone service one of the the most important issuesnoting that the agency only answered 11% of calls in fiscal year 2021.

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How Voice Bots Can Solve Some Taxpayer Problems

Tax experts remain “skeptical” about voice bots

While the IRS expects the newly expanded features to be fully rolled out this week, some tax professionals are still uncertain about voice robots.

Dan Herron, certified financial planner and CPA at Elemental Wealth Advisors in San Luis Obispo, Calif., said voice bots are a good idea for “very simple things,” like questions about balance owing. But he’s “very skeptical” of bots setting up payment plans with multiple moving parts.

Does anyone actually get anything fixed by AI voice robots for any company, let alone the Internal Revenue Service?

Adam Markowitz

Vice President at Howard L Markowitz PA, CPA

Additionally, unanswered voice bots can trigger new frustrations among callers, said Adam Markowitz, enrolled agent and vice president of Howard L Markowitz PA, CPA in Leesburg, Fla.

“Does anyone actually get anything fixed by AI voice robots for any business, let alone the Internal Revenue Service?” he added.

Phyllis Jo Kubey, a New York-based enrolled agent and president of the New York State Society of Enrolled Agents, is optimistic about the spread of voice robots and applauds the agency for “more sophisticated automated taxpayer assistance.”

However, she fears taxpayers are “chewing more than they can chew” and accepting unrealistic monthly payments when setting up a plan through the automated system.

“I hope the IRS has their AI in place to ask the taxpayer if they can afford the monthly payment they’ve agreed to,” she said.

CNBC has contacted the IRS for comment.

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