20 million calls to IRS went unanswered last year

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If you plan on calling the Internal Revenue Service with a tax question, be prepared to wait.

According to a new report from National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson, taxpayers who called the IRS last year had to wait on hold an average of 18 minutes before speaking with a customer service representative.

Some 20 million other callers didn't even get through, as the IRS could only answer 61 percent of taxpayers' calls in 2013.

"This summer I called several times, and they told me that due to high call volume, please try back tomorrow. They've had a lot of budget cuts, so therefore, they've got to cut services somewhere, and I guess that's where customer service gets cut," said Jackie Brenner, co-owner of QC Tax and Accounting in Moline.

The number of calls answered by the IRS  in 2013 represents an 87 percent decrease over the past decade.

Ten years ago, the IRS also answered nearly 795,000 tax law questions during the filing season at its local branch sites across the country. Last year, it handled around 110,000 questions, representing an 86 percent reduction.

The report blames budget cuts for the customer service decline. Since 2010, IRS funding and staffing has taken an 8 percent cut, leading many to turn elsewhere for tax assistance.

"We're probably the best type of people to come and ask for help," said Brenner.

Local tax professionals like Brenner advise filing as early as possible in case you do have questions about the process.

"Of the ones that we have checked over prior-year returns, I would say 75 percent of them, I've found errors on," said Brenner. "It's east to miss those little deductions."