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Sweet relief (for the IRS): tax season underway with no big glitches

The cautionary advice to "under promise, over deliver" has become a mantra of sorts in the service industry.

Indeed, as a broad principle of expectation setting, the phrase could be applied to virtually any interpersonal setting. After all, it is based on a solid psychological insight: you are likely to get better responses with people if you don't promise too much, but then try to do more or better than you promised.

In this post, we will apply this reasoning to the performance of the IRS as this year's tax-filing season moves into its middle stages.

As the filing season began, a spokesman for IRS employees was careful to set customer-service expectations fairly low. As we noted in our February 5 post, the president of the National Treasury Employees Union warned taxpayers about having to wait longer on hold trying to contact the IRS by phone. The union spokesperson also warned of delays in receiving tax refunds.

Yesterday, however, the IRS announced on its website and through e-mail distribution lists that tax-filing season is smoothly underway. Three weeks after the opening of the filing season, the IRS has already received about one-third of the individual income tax returns it anticipates for 2014.

The IRS has certainly gotten right to work on those returns, which number nearly 50 million. About 98 percent of them have already been processed.

In short, the IRS seems to be breathing a collective sigh of relief that this year's filing season is well underway with no major glitches. Of course, this also raises expectations that the smooth sailing will continue.

Source: IRS.gov, "IRS Continues Smooth Start to Filing Season," Feb. 27, 2014

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