Friday, March 30, 2012

Taxing Tax Preparation - Some Early Advice

I know TAX day is a long way from now, but I like to get an early start. This year that involved a phone call to the IRS for help. Big mistake. 

"Hello, I'm Agent A. ID number ..." and then she spoke so fast I had to ask her to repeat the ID number. 
Minute number 50, with IRS

I tried to make myself very clear. But the woman who should have known how to route my call did not understand I was the payER instead of the payEE. It made all the difference in my morning.  I heard the dreaded response: "Please hold while I transfer your call." 

And I held. For 23 minutes. Yes, I timed it. All the while I listened to the same musical refrain repeat and repeat and repeat, interspersed with "All of our agents" etc.etc.  I think the soothing whoosh of a mother's heartbeat as heard in utero would be a much better musical choice. 

Agents B and C similarly listened, misunderstood, and transferred me inappropriately. For another 50 minutes total. I am not exaggerating. 

When Agent D answered I calmly unloaded: length of waits, misdirection.  I begged him--I was not screaming--to NOT transfer me. "I won't transfer you. But you have to call this other office." He gave me the number and disconnected the call before I could splutter another word.
waiting, thanks to

I was very tempted to quit, but I'd already wasted so much time I must surely be close to an answer. 

The other office put me on hold, played the same dreadful music, and I waited another 20 minutes. But this time I got my answer, and suggested they play the Hallelujah chorus when they were finally able to help someone. 

Toyota's car is fancier than NASCAR. They didn't get money.

photo by Nathalie David

The agent explained that funding had cut 5,000 IRS agent jobs to save money.  I am all in favor of cutting fat. But if the NASCAR guys can get federal funding to nobly save jobs which don't help me one whit, why can't congress subsidize IRS agents so the average tax-payer (me) can get help without spending an hour and a half waiting on the phone? 

What did I learn? 
1) Never volunteer for any job which might put you in contact with a federal agency. Everybody except the pentagon is understaffed. 
2) Be nice to agents, they probably get abused regularly, with justification. I found the first four incompetent to decide who COULD answer my question. 
3) Pay an accountant to answer the questions. They get paid big bucks to be the gatekeeper to almost inscrutable federal rules. 
 4) Start working on your taxes now. It could involve some long waits!

How do you deal with frustration? annoying delays? If you have any tips, please share them with us.