Hearing-Impaired? IRS is not listening, apparently

339 of 350,000 callers reach a live person

Fewer than one in 10 callers managed to get help during tax season when they called an Internal Revenue Service help line for people with speech or hearing impairments, a government investigator said Thursday.

Overall phone service by the IRS improved during the 2010 tax season, said a report by J. Russell George, Treasury inspector general for tax administration. But phone service for speech- or hearing-impaired callers declined.

More than 350,000 people called the IRS help line for people with speech or hearing impairments during tax season. The overwhelming majority hung up almost immediately — the IRS says many probably called the line for people with hearing or speech impairments by mistake.

Some 3,844 stayed on the line to wait for assistance. Of those, 339 — or 8.8 percent — actually reached a real person, the report said…

In a written response to George’s report, the IRS said the number of callers not getting help is inflated because many people mistakenly call the help line and hang up once they realize it is for people with hearing or speech impairments.

So… only about one in a thousand callers actually wanted to reach a live person in the first place? Uh, o.k. Keep up the great work.