In the past decade, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service has invested heavily in online self-service technology, including programs such as “Where’s my Refund?” But, almost paradoxically, taxpayer demand for personal service via telephone has increased dramatically over this same period.

In 2006, the IRS received 64 million calls from taxpayers, but last year the volume reached 102 million, a 59% increase.

Many of those calls are handled by people, not by self-service systems. In 2006, the IRS routed 39.9 million calls to a customer service representative — an actual human — but last year nearly 48 million calls were taken by customer representatives, a 20% gain, according to IRS data. That’s faster than the rate of growth in the number of taxpayers, now at 147 million, a 6.5% rise from 2006.

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