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The IRS: What should you reasonably expect this filing season?

The quick and not even remotely tongue-in-cheek answer to the above-posed headline question is this: not much.

In fact, if you are a conscientious Minnesota taxpayer duly seeking a telephone response regarding a return-related question from a federal tax agent this upcoming season, you might be confronted by dead air and not much else.

Here’s a truly distressing estimate delivered by Nina Olson, the nation’s taxpayer advocate: Filers calling into the IRS for help on a 2014-related tax question anytime from now through spring had better be prepared to wait, on average, more than half an hour to get a human response.

And that’s only if they do indeed get a human on the line. Olson says that close to half of all calls to the tax agency won’t get answered at all.

How’s that for responsiveness?

In fairness, the “dysfunction right in your face” that is described by one Internal Revenue Service critic in a recent media focus on IRS/taxpayer exchanges owes largely to the gutted resources and manpower of the IRS these days. The agency has suffered an immense budget slashing in recent years, and now employs fewer agents than in past times to deal with an increasingly complex workload.

That is a certain prescription for disaster in many instances, with unlucky filers getting ever-cursory looks at their returns in a manner that can logically breed agency mistakes.

Errors and resulting penalties are not what any reasonable person expects -- or should condone -- from the IRS, regardless of the constraints it may be operating under.

The American tax system should centrally be about competence and fairness at all times. When it isn’t, an aggrieved taxpayer can seek help from a proven tax attorney commanding strong experience in IRS-related matters.

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