Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Today's IRS Time: One Hour 30 Minutes [UPDATED After Visit To Local Office]

[Update at the bottom] Monday I called the IRS again in hopes of resolving the payroll tax snafu for my mom's caregiver.  Regular readers know my mom died in July.  Although she had an experienced accountant and he'd suggested I hire ADP, one of the largest payroll companies in the world, to take care of the caregivers' state and federal taxes and other deductions, things got screwed up.

The payroll company did all the deductions at first.  Then they told us that, for a small household account with just one employee, they don't do the federal taxes.  They  had done the first three quarters in error and it was my responsibility to do the fourth quarter deposits.  In conversations between ADP and the accountant, they decided to put all the deductions into my mom's personal income tax return and ask that the money ADP deposited be transferred there.  And I found a payroll company that specialized in home care employment so this wouldn't happen again for 2015.

Then I started getting letters from the business side of the IRS saying they had $12,000 but no returns and from the personal side saying they had a return, but that I owed $12,000.  Sounds pretty simple right?  The business side just needed to transfer the $12,000 to the personal side.  That's what I thought anyway.  After regular monthly notices and phone calls, in September a business side IRS agent said that the way to resolve this was to amend the personal income taxes and leave out the payroll information and submit 941 forms to the business side.  And tell them to transfer the fourth quarter payment that went to the personal side to the business side.  (Remember, my mom is now dead, which seems weird to me, but the IRS doesn't worry about such things, those most of the agents I've talked to have been quick to offer condolences.)

That was done by early October.  I also was told that the power of attorney I had that allowed me to speak on my mom's behalf was no longer good because she had died and that I had to file a Form 56. (This is important to understand today's encounter and why I'm headed over to the IRS office now.)  I filed Form 56 on Oct. 16 - I have a copy of the stamped form in front of me because I went to the IRS office to do this.

I kept getting various notices - mostly fines and penalties adding up on the missing payments.

So, Monday I called the IRS again.

Agent 1:  On the business side.  Said she couldn't really help and I should talk to the personal side.  Besides, her shift was over and the next shift person was waiting to use the desk.  She transferred the call.

Agent 2:  On the personal side now.  Spent more time looking into it and finally said that the case had been sent to Advanced Account Services and she'd transfer me to someone there.

Agent 3:  The man at Advanced Account Services said he'd never heard that term before, but would like to help.  It should be easy to fix, but unfortunately, the computers had been down since 10am Eastern time (it was now around 5pm Eastern time.)  I'm not sure how the previous two agents I spoke to had looked up my stuff on the computer if it had been down all day, but I try to be polite on the phone calls so I didn't say anything.  He said I should call the Tax Payer Advocate.

Taxpayer Advocate:  The recording said they were there to help people who either had a hardship or who had problems that couldn't be resolved.  But the lady who answered the phone asked if I had a hardship.  Well, I'm not going to be thrown out of my house because of this delay, so I said 'no' but I have a long unresolved problem.  She said that they can only help people with hardships.  I pointed out what the recording said.  She said, "We got a notice recently that we are only to deal with hardship cases and she was sorry the recording had not been fixed."

I understand that Congress is not funding the federal government to the level they need to deal with the workload.  So I can understand that the IRS is trying to focus on the most urgent problems - like people who are in a financial crisis.  I also suspect this is part of the legacy of the Reagan policy to "starve the beast."  Today, the tax cut policy, along with actually cutting the budget, this means that government agencies like the IRS are understaffed.  You can wait 90 minutes for someone to answer your call.  (Today it was only 35 minutes fortunately, but as April nears it will get horrendous.)  This causes people like me, who have done everything they were supposed to do and paid their taxes correctly, to get really frustrated.  If I didn't have special expertise in public administration, I would probably be ranting and raving about how bad government is.  I suspect that there are some among the Republicans who want exactly that to happen.  I at least understand it's not the IRS, but Congress that's the problem for me.  Well, I do think someone at the IRS should have been able to fix this.  But this is an aside from my story here.

Senator Murkowski's office:  OK, if an agent tells me to use the taxpayer advocate and the advocate says they can't help me, I need to go to a higher authority.  I called my US Senator's office and gave them permission to get information about my (mom's) taxes.

Today.  I began at 8:05am.  I waited 35 minutes on hold.  The agent listened and spent a lot of time looking at the (now lengthy, I'm sure) record on the computer.  But it boiled down to this:  "You aren't authorized to represent this account."   Again, she tells me, because my mother died, the power of attorney is no longer valid.
Me:  "But I filed a Form 56."
IRS:  When?
Me:  I have a copy of the stamped form here.  October 16, 2015.
IRS:  We don't have a copy.  You sent one for the personal side, but not the business side.  You need to fill one out with the EIN number (my mom had to be a business to do the payroll deductions and so she was assigned an EIN number.)
Me:  The Form 56 I submitted has both the EIN number AND my mother's social security number.
IRS:  Well, we don't have it.
Me:  Can't you call the personal side (of the IRS) and get a copy?
IRS:  No.

Mind you, I've talked to about five or six agents on the business side since my mother died.  Only Monday and today did this issue of the power of attorney come up.

So I'm off to the IRS to file a second Form 56 and this one will only have the EIN number on it.


I know I should proof this, but I need to get to the IRS office and I have a ton of other things to do as well.  So please correct the typos as you read.

UPDATE 1:29pm (original posted at 10:30am today) -  It took less time to walk (15 minutes) to my local IRS office and wait there (3 minutes) than it took earlier to wait for an agent to talk to me on the phone (35 minutes.)  The agent who saw me did NOT say she couldn't talk to me.  She did NOT say she couldn't see the business side or the personal side.   I'd gone in to refile Form 56 which allows you to represent someone you have power of attorney for after they die.  Well, that's not entirely correct.  It allows you to establish that after the death you still have the authority to represent the deceased.  I'd already filed the form in October for both the business and personal side.  The personal side has said they have it, but the business side today said I needed one for the business side before she could talk to me.  Even though the form I'd filed listed both the EIN (for business side) and the SS#.

But Ms. E took the old form I'd filed (and had stamped because I'd filed it in person) and said I didn't need to refile.  Instead she went into the computer and went to the business side and added the Form 56 info for them.  She checked what they were doing and she checked on what the personal side was doing.  The personal side had received the amended return in early December and there was a note to transfer the money over to the business side when the review was completed.  She went into the collections side and put in a note saying to hold off on collections because they were processing the amended form.  While she didn't move the money over and make all the issues go away, she did more than any of the folks on the phone have done.

She said there's a big push to do everything electronically, but what I needed couldn't be done that way.  Or via the phone easily.  So being a walk in at the local IRS was both faster and more productive that calling on the phone.  At least in the Anchorage office.  AND I got a nice walk through the fresh snow instead of sitting around on hold.

[Sorry for those seeing this reposted - Feedburner problems again. This seems to be getting all too common.]


  1. Good stuff to know, particularly POA ending with death. Doesn't personal representative (executor) status cover this? So one must file this Form 56. Interesting.

    Anyway, I now know I can rest assured my $1600 refund due me from last June is being processed... maybe.

    1. Jacob, yes, executor status covers this, but form 56 is where you certify that you have that status. More interesting, and disturbing, is the different responses from different agents. On the business side, when I mentioned Form 56, agents said things like, "I never heard of that" or "We don't need that on the business side." But Monday and today business side agents wouldn't tell me anything because they didn't see Form 56. The agents come with all levels of knowledge, competence, and rigidity. Best lesson was, if you get a bad agent, call back in ten minutes and you'll get someone else. But you may have to wait on hold for an hour or more. So have something to do and use a speaker phone. And have all the numbers you need ready.
      Also, they answer the phone: "This is Mr. X. My number is 100xvxvxvxvxvx." So have your pen ready to write cause they say it fast.
      Keeping notes with agent names and numbers and dates and what they said has been very helpful in gaining credibility with new agents. I obviously know what I'm talking about and it matches what they see on their screen.


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