Jefferson City IRS office left unstaffed during tax season

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JEFFERSON CITY - The IRS office in Jefferson City remained closed Wednesday because it's only employee is away at training. 

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer shared a letter from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen with KOMU 8 News dated Feb. 8. In the letter, Koskinen said the Jefferson City Taxpayer Assistance Center is unstaffed because it's one new employee is currently attending basic training. 

The letter said: 

"The Jefferson City TAC is staffed with one employee, who is new and currently attending basic training. Unfortunately, this leaves the TAC temporarily unstaffed."

The IRS said it expects the Jefferson City office to reopen for walk-in services on Feb. 16. It suggested taxpayers can find a majority of services online or toll-free by phone at 1-800-829-1040.  

Rep. Luetkemeyer said in a statement he thinks the new employee's training should have taken place weeks before the busy tax season, and it's appropriate to add at least one more employee using funds allocated to the IRS.

"In the letter, the Commissioner suggested that taxpayers instead use the 1-800 number, Luetkemeyer said.  "However, he failed to mention that only 38 percent of callers ever get through to talk to a representative and they are usually on hold for an average of 30 minutes. That is totally unacceptable when Congress appropriated the IRS additional funds in the last fiscal year."

Jim Marberry, a partner in Marberry & Eagle, CPAs in downtown Columbia agreed with Luetkemeyer. 

"The timing on this [is] a little suspect because it's the most busiest time for the Internal Revenue Service, and where would this person be going for tax training, the first of February?" Marberry said. "I mean, it's certainly not a fair excuse."

Concerning the IRS' suggestion that taxpayers get assistance via phone or internet, Marberry said that is almost impossible. 

"There's no way you can communicate with them by electronic email. It's very difficult to call them on the phone," Marberry said."If you had a technical question about a tax situation, you couldn't get it answered by calling the IRS." 

However, Marberry added, most likely, the IRS isn't completely to blame.

"They're suffering cutbacks just a lot of people calling with questions," Marberry said.

He does believe communication in general between taxpayers and the IRS needs improvement. 

"Communication is difficult, and I think [to] the commissioner that should be a priority, [he] should address communicating with taxpayers." 

The office closed on January 25. Business owners in the area and the building's landlord told KOMU 8 News they did not know the reason for the closure. People who expected to use the IRS services described their experiences as "frustrating" due to the timing of the closure during tax season. 

Luetkemeyer intends to reach back out to the IRS to get more answers. "Taxpayers in mid-Missouri deserve more than this," he said.

A business around the corner from IRS said it has seen more clients in its office as a result of the closing.

As of Wednesday, the IRS had not yet returned KOMU 8 News' original request for comment.