IRS Deploys AI Bots To Help Collecting Taxes

( It’s no secret that there is a massive shortage of workers at the Internal Revenue Service, and it’s forcing the agency to take drastic measures to keep up with tax returns and all their other duties.

One way it’s doing that is by expanding the use of automation in its call center. By doing so, employees there have extra time to address the sometimes complex requests they get from taxpayers.

Last week, the IRS announced that people who are behind on their tax payments and have received an IRS notice in the mail from can call a bot powered by artificial intelligence to establish a payment plan. No longer would they have to wait on hold to speak directly with a real human employee of the IRS.

Officials with the IRS said that any individual who owes the IRS $25,000 or less can establish a payment plan for those back taxes using the voice bot. The agency said that a large majority of the people who owe taxes would qualify for the bot services under the criteria set.

By integrating more AI-powered bots, the IRS will be better equipped to help taxpayers who call into the agency, according to Darren Guillot, who serves as the deputy commission of Small Business/Self Employed Collection & Operations Support at the IRS.

Earlier in 2022, officials said that the IRS was only able to answer roughly 30% of inquiries that came from taxpayer phone calls to the customer support line. As Guillot explained:

“If you don’t have more people to answer phone calls, what are the types of taxpayer issues that are so straightforward that artificial intelligence could do it for us, to free up more of our human assisters to interact with taxpayers who need to talk to us about much more complex issues.”

On one hand, Guillot has a point. If setting up a payment plan is a simple task, why take up the resources of IRS call center agents who could be handling more complicated questions from taxpayers? On the other hand, though, who wants to deal with a bot over the phone, especially with such vital information as back taxes they owe?

Chuck Rettig, the IRS commissioner, defended the agency’s practice of using automation. He said recently that it’s all a part of a wider effort to help improve the experience taxpayers get when they connect with the IRS.

In a statement, Rettig said:

“We continue to look for ways to better assist taxpayers, and that includes helping people avoid waiting on hold or having to make a second phone call to get what they need.”

The IRS started using bots at the end of last year to help the agency deal with situations in which the taxpayer didn’t have to authenticate their identity or provide any private information.

That functionality was just expanded, though, since taxpayers will have to authenticate who they are to establish payment plans. As Guillot explains of the service:

“It verifies you really are who you say you are, by asking for some basic information and a number that you will have on the notice you received. That gives you a phone number to call and speak with the bot.”