We all know that outstanding customer service at most government agencies is rare, and the IRS is no exception.  Attempting to talk to a human on the phone is almost laughable. Considering that our country has a huge deficit, you’d think the IRS would do everything possible to encourage people to pay what they owe.


Unfortunately, in most cases, tax payers are given the run around, end up on hold on the phone, or made to cut through thick bureaucratic red tape.  Most become dazed and confused looking at the plethora of forms and rules they have to abide by. All they want is to have someone tell them what to do in a way that they’ll understand. Kevin Thompson CPA says “I don’t believe for one moment that this is the way it is supposed to be. Unfortunately it’s a reality. And that reality is that the solution for taxpayers is a costly one. You have to engage people like me that do this for a living. It’s my profession.”


Some people have heard that it will not answer questions from taxpayers from April 16 through the following January on the phone.


You can walk into an IRS office, but they suggest that you make an appointment.  That means you have to get through on the phone. Some people never make it past the switchboard and there’s no option to leave a message. The IRS voice recording may give you a garbled email address if you’re lucky enough to figure out what it is.


If you use the email address, you may be asked to provide additional information and they may not get back to you in weeks.


That leaves the IRS website which is equally frustrating. One woman clicked a link for the IRS website “interactive tax assistant.” This allows you to chat with a supposed “human.”  The chat assistant suggested she phone the IRS.  As you can imagine, this led nowhere.


IRS spokesman, Raphael Tulino, suggests you simply walk into an IRS office and be prepared for a very long wait. (Probably about 3 hours)  “Bring a good book.”  He’s assuming that taxpayers don’t have anything better to do. Kevin Thompson, CPA says “sitting in the lobby at an IRS office is an interesting study in human interaction. I think someday I might just write a book on this very subject. But for now, I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone. Except an old partner of mine, but that’s a story for another day. This painful experience will result in you losing 3 hours that you will never get back.”


To make matters worse; Congress is bent on crippling the IRS with budget cuts.  That means less customer service than the already sorry customer service it now provides. “I have said it before in previous posts; the IRS is seriously outmanned in this battle. As frustrating as it is on the outside looking in, imagine the inside looking out. It cannot be anything that resembles fun.” However, is now the time for the IRS to begin looking at outsourcing some of what they do? I think there are multiple opportunities for the service to use the private sector including collections, conflict resolution and the ever-present offer in compromise (http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Struggling-with-Paying-Your-Taxes-Let-IRS-Help-You-Get-a-Fresh-Start) program.


If more people complain, perhaps the IRS will make it easier for taxpayers to communicate, but it isn’t likely due to the situation in Congress. Most people want to pay their fair share. Thompson says “I want my clients and all taxpayers to pay their share … but not one penny more.”


To avoid suffering from a migraine while trying to talk to a human at the IRS, and not tear out all your hair, contact your friendly tax adviser for advice.


Kevin Thompson, CPA kevin@kevinthompsoncpa.com or call him @ (310) 450-4625 x102.