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IRS Apologizes for Clogged Phones as Tax Filing Begins

Jan. 31 (Bloomberg) -- The Internal Revenue Service won’t be able to answer millions of phone calls from taxpayers this year, Commissioner John Koskinen said today.

The IRS said it answered 61 percent of calls that came in to customer service lines last year. Koskinen, who became commissioner in December, said he hoped the agency could reach 70 percent this year.

“I apologize for the public that we can’t do more,” Koskinen said on the first day of the U.S. individual tax filing season, which lasts until April 15. “I personally just find it unacceptable.”

On a conference call with reporters, Koskinen said the IRS was encouraging taxpayers to use the agency’s website -- www.irs.gov -- to look up basic tax information and check the status of their refunds.

Koskinen and the IRS have been lobbying Congress for more funding and they haven’t succeeded.

The agency’s budget for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 is $11.3 billion, little changed from the prior year. That was a middle ground between a reduction of more than $2 billion sought by House Republicans and an increase of more than $1 billion requested by President Barack Obama.

To contact the reporter on this story: Richard Rubin in Washington at rrubin12@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider at jschneider50@bloomberg.net

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