Sunday, September 06, 2015

"Our Representatives Are Still Helping Other Customers, Please Continue To Hold"

After waiting two hours to talk to someone who said she couldn't help me and then transferred me to another line where I've been waiting for over an hour, I started thinking that maybe the IRS needs to contract with an Indian call center.

Among the anti-tax, anti-government crowd are those business people who know that if they starve government, then there will be less enforcement of the rules and they can get away with more sketchy business and safety practices.  They'll hire lawyers who will concoct complicated legal responses that exhaust the thinning staff of the IRS and other agencies.

Meanwhile, law-abiding citizens have to wait for hours (literally) to talk to someone who might possibly be able to figure out how to get their organization to put the pieces together so that they'll stop sending me letters incorrectly saying I owe them money.

Here's the problem.

We hired a caregiver to take care of my mom when she could no longer walk and take care of herself.

We hired a national payroll firm to take care of calculating the taxes and paying them to the state and the federal governments.

So the company sent in the withheld federal taxes.

My mom's accountant sent in her income tax return, which included those withheld taxes as the payroll company said should be done. 

The IRS has not been able to connect the money they got from the payroll company to the tax return they got from the accountant. [As I learned from the guy I eventually talked to, the personal side of the IRS is separate and doesn't communicate well with the business side.]

My mother is getting letters saying that her personal returns owe X thousand dollars.
She's also getting letters saying that they have received X thousand dollars but there is no tax return.

The two parts of the IRS aren't talking to each other.

Despite the fact that

1.  The accountant has sent them letters documenting the connection between my mother's social security number and the Employer ID number and that the payments were made and the returns filed.
2.  I talked at length to an agent back in March or April and he clearly understood the issue and took extensive notes for the file.  He talked to my mom to get me power of attorney for the 2014 returns and told me what form to fill out for the 2015 return, which I did.

I sent the two new letters that were awaiting me at my mom's in LA last week to the accountant so he could respond to them.  But he also suggested I try to call them as well.  I had tried to call already, before talking to the accountant, but the recording I got then said they were too busy and to call again the next day.  It's more than the next day and the first number I called said to call later.  The next number (there's one number on the letter saying my mom owes X dollars and another number on the letter that says they have the money, but my mom needs to file a return) put me on hold for two hours before someone answered.  How many people can sit by the phone for two hours?  I at least could put it on speaker phone and do other work and my wife was around to take care of our grand daughter whom we're taking care of this week.

This agent was less than helpful or understanding.  She never even took my mom's name or social security number.  She just decided I needed to talk to the business side and said, "I'll transfer you."  Then I got told by a recording that the wait would be over 60 minutes.

[I've been writing this as this was unfolding, so I typed the next part 90 minutes later.]

But the man who eventually answered, about 90 minutes later, quickly grasped what I was saying and outlined how to fix it.  The tax deductions for the caregiver, despite what the payroll company said and despite what the accountant did, should not have been reported on my mom's personal tax return, but should have been file on a 941.  I wrote down what I understood and he said that was basically it.  He agreed it was unfortunate that it took so long for the IRS to answer the phone.  And it was too bad I couldn't have the accountant on the line too so he could answer the technical questions I didn't know and could ask things I didn't know to ask.  But he won't tie up his phone for two hours on hold.  He also agreed that the two sides of the IRS - business and personal - don't seem to talk to each other better.

So I have a tentative solution now which includes amending my mom's 2014 tax return - ugh.  
If we funded the IRS properly, it wouldn't take so long to answer the phone.  If they answered the phone, people wouldn't get so frustrated and could solve their problems before lots of penalties and interest fees pile up.  But this also make people angry at the IRS so they are amenable to the anti-government folks arguments, vote for simplistic anti-tax politicians, and make things even worse.  And the big polluters and tax dodgers get away with their shenanigans because the government doesn't have enough staff to handle their cases.  We see that with schools too - the campaigns to trash the public schools, cut their budgets.  This makes schools more crowded and parents more pissed off about schools.

On the positive side is that the man I talked to actually stayed in the office until 6pm his time on the Friday of a three day weekend to be sure he understood what I was explaining, to look up the returns and find that indeed the money was where I said, and to listen to me reread my notes.

Now I have to send my notes to the accountant who is going to say, I'm sure, we did some of the things already and that what he did was perfectly legit.   Grrrrrr.  We'll see.

[Reposted because of Feedburner issues.]

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