Menendez Joins Bipartisan Effort Urging IRS to Investigate Pay-for-Service Scheme
Recent reports suggest private company EnQ has allegedly flooded the IRS with robo-calls and is selling slots at the front of the line for a premium
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, signed on to a bipartisan letter urging Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Charles P. Rettig to investigate recent reports suggesting a private company is charging taxpayers a premium to speak to an IRS representative or face potentially hours-long wait times. EnQ has allegedly been flooding the IRS with robo-calls and selling slots at the front of the hold line to paying customers, taking advantage of an already strained customer service system. EnQ, based in Florida, charges premiums as high as $1,000 per year.
“Being able to call the IRS is a free, public service that should be available on an equal basis. Paying to receive preferential access to the IRS should not be permitted,” the senators wrote to IRS Commissioner Rettig. “EnQ’s service creates a two-tiered system for taxpayers seeking to access assistance from the IRS.”
In the letter, also signed by U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.), the lawmakers called for the IRS to investigate whether EnQ has negatively impacted the capacity of the IRS phone systems and if so, to consider all appropriate remedies including 26 U.S. Code § 7212, which prohibits attempts to interfere with administration of internal revenue laws.
The letter additionally asked Commissioner Rettig to take necessary action to drastically improve the quality of service at the IRS. While the Internal Revenue Service has faced new challenges fielding incoming calls during the COVID-19 pandemic, the customer service problems began years earlier with the percentage of calls answered dropping from 32 percent in 2018 to 21 percent in 2020. In 2021, the IRS answered only 9 percent of incoming calls. Additionally, after waiting on hold for hours, many customers ultimately have their calls dropped.
“Such a troubling approach to dealing with taxpayers is not in-line with the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which makes clear that taxpayers have a right to quality service. Reasonable access to the IRS is essential to a fair and effective tax system,” the senators added.
The full text of the letter can be found HERE and below.
Dear Commissioner Rettig:
During the 2021 filing season, the IRS answered only 9% of incoming calls. We recognize that during this time, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) saw a record high number of callers and new challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the downward trend began prior to the pandemic. For example, the percentage of calls answered fell from 32% in 2018 to 21% in 2020. What’s more, many callers wait on hold for hours, only to ultimately see their calls dropped, an action the IRS calls a “Courtesy Disconnect.” Such a troubling approach to dealing with taxpayers is not in-line with the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which makes clear that taxpayers have a right to quality service. Reasonable access to the IRS is essential to a fair and effective tax system.
Media reports are drawing attention to a service known as EnQ, which launched in 2016. EnQ allows paid subscribers to jump to the front of the hold queue for the IRS phone lines. According to the company, this service reduces hold time for subscribers by up to 90%. Plans start at about $100 per month and run as much as $300 per month. Although helpful for those who subscribe, EnQ’s service creates a two-tiered system for taxpayers seeking to access assistance from the IRS. It also may exacerbate the poor response rates at the IRS it purports to address.
It is curious that in the time period since EnQ’s robo-calls began flooding the IRS lines, the downward trend in calls answered at the IRS increased so dramatically. As such, we ask that you evaluate whether EnQ has negatively impacted the capacity of your phone systems. If it has, we ask that you consider all potentially applicable remedies, including 26 U.S. Code § 7212, which prohibits attempts to interfere with administration of internal revenue laws. Being able to call the IRS is a free, public service that should be available on an equal basis. Paying to receive preferential access to the IRS should not be permitted.
Finally, we ask that you take necessary action to dramatically improve the quality of service called for in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Hold times should be measured by minutes, not hours. The percentage of calls answered should be in the high double-digits, not the high single-digits. Improving service should be an utmost priority to the IRS.
Please keep us informed as you investigate this matter and consider your options. We standby ready to assist, if needed. Thank you and we look forward to your response.