Staffing shortages at a local tax office have prompted a bit of a tit-for-tat between U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, and the Internal Revenue Service.
The IRS acknowledges that the tax assistance center is understaffed and that’s its caseloads have been exacerbated by the closing of a separate office in Athens.
The Gainesville branch, located on Oak Street, is the only location to serve more than 700,000 residents throughout Northeast Georgia’s 9th Congressional District.
Beginning in October, all visits must be made by appointment. No more first-come, first-served approach.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen wrote to Collins explaining that $900 million in budget cuts have been made since 2010, resulting in the loss of more than 2,000 full- and part-time employees in Georgia, a 32 percent drop.
“Unfortunately, these staffing and budget reductions have affected both taxpayer service and tax enforcement operations across the nation,” Koskinen wrote.
Moreover, traffic at tax centers can be unpredictable after filing season ends, Koskinen wrote. And more identity theft cases, which are time-consuming, have been handled this year.
Finally, Koskinen said all visitors and callers to the tax center are told of online options to serve their needs.
Collins, in a second letter sent to the agency this week, has now outlined a series of questions he wants answering after receiving the initial response from Koskinen.
Collins is still unhappy about the agency’s plans to fix the problems at the Gainesville office where customers can make payments, inquire about a notice, ask about a refund, get a transcript of their tax return or pick up a tax form.
For example, Collins wants to know where IRS staff is assigned throughout state and breakdown of personnel by position; how the decision was made to allow only one staff member at the Gainesville office during the non-filing season; and how resources are allocated to serve customers across Northeast Georgia.
The online options don’t solve understaffing, Collins wrote, and are largely unknown to customers.
Collins said staffing cuts in congressional offices have been made, too, and they “still manage to provide thorough and timely constituent services.”
He is calling for another response from the IRS by Sept. 2.