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Have you ever tried to contact the IRS? It can be a really tough job, believe me. I just spent four hours this morning trying but without much luck.

Contact the IRS

There are two big problems with contacting the IRS. The phone is an option, but you have to wait a minimum of five minutes for a real person to come on the line. I tried calling an IRS 800 number and hung on for 20 minutes without anyone coming on. Yes, the robotalker kept apologizing for the long wait, but the IRS didn’t have an option where they’d call you back instead of making you wait.

The other problem with the IRS is that they don’t have a real way to email them, and they NEVER accept attachments for anything.

So I tried to get access to my account in order to look at my tax records. Initially, it looked like they just wanted my name, email, social security number and address. I kept filling out their form, but they kept rejecting it. I didn’t have a copy of my tax return – that’s why I wanted to look at the account – so I couldn’t see that I had put “North Hollywood” as the city from which I had filed rather than “Los Angeles.” Eventually, the IRS blocked me from trying further because they were afraid I was a hacker.

At the end of the day, with staggering long phone waits and no way to email, I get the feeling that the IRS really doesn’t want to communicate with taxpayers.

Later on, I tried their system for getting a physical copy of my transcript sent to me. On this one, for some reason, they just asked me for my social security number. Of course, the problem is going to be that they’ll send the transcript to an older address, because it takes them at least a year to update addresses. And if you want to advise them that your address is changed, you can’t just email them; you have to mail them a notice or drop off a notice at the post office. No, they don’t even have a built-in notice system on their website – who knows why? If you put your new address into their form for getting a transcript, they’ll reject it even if it’s on the Form 1040 you just filed, because they won’t see the 1040 for at least 6 months after you file it.

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Anyway, I got them to send the hard copy out to me. But since I couldn’t change my address easily through the IRS, I figured that I’d better change in through the post office. I was sure that I had done that when I moved, and I had received forwarded mail for a year. But I checked anyway, and found that there was no easy way to check and see if it really had been changed. (You have to save the USPS confirmation letter to keep the confirmation number in order to view changes later). And when I tried to use the change of address form (and pay $1.05 as insurance) the USPS advised me that their system wasn’t functioning properly (!!) So it isn’t just the IRS’s system that fails to work.

Just remember that the USPS will only forward first class mail for a year from your old address (and packages only for 60 days). Change of address forms aren’t perfect.

But since I was able to forward my own tax transcript I thought I would do the same for my brother. That didn’t work. First, the IRS phone system was suddenly not functioning, so it wouldn’t send out transcripts. And because my brother had moved in 2017, I felt sure that the USPS wouldn’t forward the IRS transcripts until I filed another forwarding notice with them. So that’s on my “things to do” list.

I did find out that it was possible to do electronic chat with the IRS. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do much good, The IRS chatters only repeat what’s online and then hang up as quickly as they can. Not very helpful.

Oh, yes, if all else fails, you can converse with the IRS via snail mail. They take weeks to open their mail, however, so that does little good.

At the end of the day, with staggering long phone waits and no way to email, I get the feeling that the IRS really doesn’t want to communicate with taxpayers. Why should they, anyhow? If you can’t figure out their crazy system, the burden is on you, If you’re late, you pay a penalty. If you can’t talk to them, maybe you’ll forget to ask for your refund. It’s all just a big shell game, and you’re on the losing end.

michael hertz

Michael T. Hertz