subtitle: Why IRS representation can be slow and expensive
Today I called the IRS Professional Hotline, waited 25 minutes, then got disconnected by live person picking up the call. (This is a common response in peak call time).
I call back to the IRS Professional hotline, wait 20 minutes, reach a live gent, confirm taxpayer identity through multiple Q&As, confirm my power of attorney through multiple Q&As, realize the audit is in a different department and the phone call needs to be transferred or says I can direct dial that number. I explain that I have not been successful dialing that department directly because the phone menu appears to leave no option to reach a live person. The IRS agent transfers me.
Then I wait on hold another 15 minutes, confirm taxpayer’s identity through multiple Q&As, confirm my power of attorney through multiple Q&As, realize this is the small business department and that my call was transferred to the small business department. IRS agent makes notes about the errant transfer and then transfers me to the individual taxpayer wage and investment campus.
Wait on hold 10 minutes (giving me time to type up the notes that were used to form this blog post), confirm taxpayer’s identity through multiple Q&As but I don’t have the taxpayer’s date of birth that has never been requested by any previous IRS agent. I text the taxpayer while I stall the IRS agent, she sends back her DOB, we complete the security verification with more Q&As. But then the agent says there is no power of attorney on file with the case. I refer back to the previous two verifications of power of attorney and offer to fax it again but for some reason the IRS agent backs off and decides to try to help without verifying the power of attorney.
Finally the agent asks me why I am calling: I explain that the taxpayer just wonders if the 6 month delay in reviewing a correspondence exam is normal or if something is wrong. The exam is holding up a significant refund needed to pay student tuition.
The agent says we should expect response from the IRS within the next 4 weeks. That’s it. No more information is available.
Now I report back to the taxpayer, my client, that we need to wait another month. I don’t feel very helpful. Yet by the time I write up the notes I have almost two hours spent of this tax update matter. By this time I’m on the phone talking to another accountant saying “Clients probably don’t believe us when we report that the IRS is this screwed up!” He responds “Yes, it’s just ridiculous”.
But here is the point:
It is almost always a bad idea for a taxpayer to represent themselves in communication with IRS on a correspondence audit. We’ve seen it go wrong too many times. Very often the IRS makes notes and uses the taxpayer’s words in an earlier call against them later. Usually the taxpayer doesn’t even know that they’ve said something incriminating. It is unfortunately better to waste some hours of your accountant’s time than deal with the frustration yourself and risk making the problem worse.