IRS starts using chatbots for calls

The Internal Revenue Service has announced that it has begun deploying voice and chat bots on two of its specialist toll-free phone support hotlines and to help taxpayers with simple payment or reminder questions get what they need quickly need and avoid waiting times.

Taxpayers can still speak to an IRS phone representative if needed.

“Our phone lines continue to experience unprecedented demand, and the IRS continues to look for ways to help people and avoid long waits,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. Bots can help some people avoid long phone delays for something that is resolved locally could become. This is part of a larger effort to help people get the support they need this tax season.”

The IRS has deployed voice and chat bots in English and Spanish on phone lines for the past few weeks to assist taxpayers with tax payment problems or understanding an IRS notice they may receive. Those with general tax season questions will generally not encounter these features at this time. The bots are now available to help taxpayers:

Voice bots are artificial intelligence (AI) powered software that allows a caller to use their voice to navigate an interactive voice response (IVR) system, generally in natural language. Chat bots simulate human conversation through web-based text interaction and also use AI-powered software to respond to natural language prompts. Taxpayers wishing to speak to a customer service representative will be placed in a queue for ACS telephone support in English or Spanish.

The IRS voice and chat bots currently offer unauthenticated services, meaning they cannot provide assistance with a taxpayer’s protected account information.

“Voice and chat bots interact with taxpayers in ways that are easy to understand, which means taxpayers don’t have to wait in line to complete simple tasks,” said Darren Guillot, Commissioner of Small Business/Self Employed Collection at the IRS.

Later in 2022, IRS voice bots will also allow taxpayers to authenticate their identities to create payment plans, request a transcript, and get information about their accounts like payout details. The IRS plans to roll out more voice and chat bots later in 2022 to help taxpayers with more complex issues. The IRS’s toll-free phone lines receive millions of calls annually.

A customer service representative spends, on average, nearly 20 minutes with each taxpayer they help with a collections issue. Providing IRS phone assistants to taxpayers with complex collections issues who need to speak to someone is another great benefit of voice and chat bots. In addition to the payment lines, voice bots assisted people calling the Economic Impact Payment (EIP) toll-free number and provided general procedural answers to frequently asked questions.

The IRS also added voice bots to the Advance Child Tax Credit toll-free hotline in February to provide similar assistance to callers who need help reconciling the credits on their 2021 tax returns.

The IRS also reminds taxpayers of numerous other self-service options that are available.

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