The Internal Revenue Service has unveiled a new artificial intelligence system that it says will cut wait times to solve simple tasks and improve customer service.
IRS officials said during a call with reporters Friday that the technology enables the new phone system to verify callers by asking them basic questions. They said the new system could understand the full and natural ways of speaking.
“For the first time in 160 years, this agency has been able to successfully interact with taxpayers using artificial intelligence to access and resolve their accounts, in certain situations, without any pending wait,” said IRS Deputy Commissioner Darren Gillow during the call. .
Agency officials made it clear that when taxpayers receive a letter through the mail stating that they owe money, they can use an identification number from the letter to call and access the improved system.
Frederic Schindler, acting collection manager, said his team has arranged the creation and mailing of more than 3 million letters so that they will arrive in mailboxes in the coming days, allowing callers to take advantage of the new system.
The IRS’s efforts to improve its phone system come nearly three months after the law firm said it would hire 10,000 additional employees to weather the pandemic-related backlog.
IRS officials said expanding the phone’s bot with artificial intelligence demonstrates an improvement over the previous phone system. They said the unauthenticated ex-phone bot can only answer basic questions and allow callers to set up one-time payments.
This basic technology, which does not allow the system to withdraw someone’s IRS account, is also the technology behind the online chat box that the agency uses.
Due to the new bot’s authentication ability, it can access the caller’s IRS account. From there, callers can “discuss” and set up a payment plan with the bot without spending time waiting — a process that typically takes 17 to 20 minutes with a human worker, IRS officials said.
IRS officials said that by allowing the phone robot to tackle simpler problems, it frees up human operators for more complex matters.
Deputy Treasury Secretary Wali Adeemo Recently told ABC News The IRS received more than 200 million calls and only had 15,000 people to answer those calls last year.
Even with a smartphone bot, IRS officials said, callers will still have the option to speak with a human for additional support.
Many callers owe less than $25,000, and they can “set the rate” or the monthly amount they will commit to paying. The AI system then calculates this amount to determine if it falls within the agency’s repayment deadline.
Officials made it clear that the new bot would not direct callers to pay more than their so-called price.
While officials on the call acknowledged that the new phone bot will provide a return on investment through expanded compliance, he said increasing government revenue was not the primary focus of system development.
“Service is part of our name,” Guillot said. “It’s all about the taxpayer experience, and customer assistance,” he later said.
But not all callers will enjoy the no-wait time that an authenticated phone bot offers. IRS officials said it was only launched on the automated collection system and account management phone lines on Tuesday.
Currently, it’s operating at 25% of its intended capacity, which made the bot answer more than 13,000 calls on Thursday. IRS officials said the IRS plans to bring more of the system online through the end of next week.
“We have phone lines to deal with specific issues such as concessions or settlement offers,” Schindler said. “In the future, there are use cases for transferring this technology, particularly as we learn more about it, to any of our assembly processes.”
The robot is currently working in both English and Spanish, they said, and IRS officials hope to expand language offerings in the future.
Officials said the most urgent expansion plans include programming the authenticator bot to ask questions of callers who name their monthly payments to make sure it’s within their financial means.