You get hung up on by ex-boyfriends. You get hung up on by your siblings who haven’t forgiven you for killing their pet rhododendron. You get hung up on by people you give bad news.
But since when is the IRS allowed to hang up on your help call?
Talk about insult and injury. I haven’t been this riled up about something since… Hm. Probably not since I got (falsely) accused of undermining the manager’s authority at the bookstore where I worked. I am a nice person. A little cranky in the mornings, but I always have good intentions and I’m always polite.
The business got a letter from the IRS this week informing us we own them some penalty fees. I couldn’t believe it, so I called to find out how it happened. I spent half an hour on hold. (The IRS has very nice hold music, by the way.) The lady I spoke to was very nice, and shed some light on the situation. I hung up and did some more research, at which point I discovered that we do owe about half the fees, but the other half should not be due.
I called back to find out what I should do. Spent another half hour on hold (turns out the hold music is the same every time. I guess they don’t expect that anyone wants to call the IRS more than once in a row). The lady I spoke to this time was also very nice, though it turned out I didn’t have a signature I needed, so once again, I had to hang up and call back after I got the signature.
I did that today. I had all of my ducks completely in a row, I knew exactly what I needed to say and do and I was going to get it all taken care of. Miraculously, I didn’t spend any time on hold. My friend, number 94-11340 picked up right away. We began going through the process. This is what I want, this is the form I have, here’s my name address and serial number. Am I a corporate officer? No, but I am a third party designee, and I have the form to prove it along with (finally) the appropriate signature. Shall I fax that over then?
Things took a sudden turn for the worse. I suspect part of it was poor communication, though (having done this twice already) I thought I was communicating pretty clearly.
“What do you mean fax? You mean you’ll hang up and fax it then call back?”
No, last time I just set the phone down, ran to the fax machine, then came back.
“And talked to a different person?”
No, talked to the same person. She just waited for a moment. I’ve done this twice. It seemed to work out okay before.
“No,” he said, talking slowly like I’m a bit thick. “There’s nothing you can fax that would give me permission to talk to you. To be a Third Party Designee you need to fill out IRS form <blahblahblah> and have that on file with us. Those are available on the internet.”
Yes, I say, but this is an actual part of the form I already filed with you, and it says right here on the form you have permission to speak with me if it is properly filled out, which it is.
“No, that won’t be sufficient. You’re not a corporate officer.”
Okay, well one of the officers is standing right here. Can you talk to her and get her permission?
“I would have to have her permission. But you don’t have the right paperwork.”
But I’ve already done this twice. I spoke with two other people and both put me through exactly the same process to allow me to speak to them, and there was no problem or no other form to fill out. Why has this suddenly changed?
“I’m sorry, that information is inadequate. You should call back when you’re better prepared.” Click.
“WHAT THE HELL?” I ask aloud (and loudly). I half hope he didn’t hang up on me, but that he was still on the line to hear me. Nope, he was really gone. The IRS accused me of being stupid and unprepared, and then the IRS HUNG UP ON ME.
I’m pretty hard to annoy, but I was shaking mad. I’d spent three phone calls and an hour on hold to get this issue resolved. How dare he hang up on me?
So I called back. I probably should have waited until I finished shaking, but I called back right away because bite me if he can intimidate me off the phone. The IRS might have that reputation, but I am way too nice a person to be hung up on, even by the IRS’s crankiest employee.
Again, no hold time. Turns out they are having computer problems at the IRS today (makes you feel good, doesn’t it?) so I suspect no one was staying on the phone long. The gal I spoke to was, again, very friendly and helpful. There did not seem to be any problem with my Third Party Designee status, other than the computer problems that didn’t allow them to get through to the information. That’s all right, she told me. You can send in a written statement. Look! Alternatives! Helpful suggestions.
I considered taking her helpfullness and leaving well enough alone. But then, I was still shaking from left over mad-ness. If I’d waited to call until I had calmed down, I probably would have left well enough alone. But too bad for Mr. 94-11340.
The lady’s comment after I told her what happened was “we do have very strict guidelines we have to follow about verifying who we can speak to, but rudeness is not part of those guidelines.” I really appreciated that. Even if I was dumb as a stick (which I’m not), I deserve to be treated with respect. Even by the IRS. I deserve to have someone help me understand what I need to know to do my job, even if that means explaining why my form was insufficient and why I should fill out other forms. I’d be okay with it, I just need to understand.
So thank you, numbers 29-12364, 29-77948, and 94-09639. You made dealing with the IRS about as pleasant as it can be. Mr. 94-11340? I hope you get sent to customer service school, and I hope your life isn’t as miserable as your phone skills seem to hint it might be.