After hours of trying, no luck getting help from the IRS

Discussion in 'Tax' started by Jonathan Kamens, Jun 12, 2011.

  1. I e-filed my Federal return around February 18.

    A week later, I filed a 1040X because my company issued me a
    W-2c, due to increased wages due to disqualifying disposition
    in December that didn't get straightened out until February.
    The 1040X said I owed $147 more, which TurboTax claimed would
    be direct-debited from my bank account like my original
    payment from my e-filing.

    The original payment was direct-debited on April 18 as
    expected. The additional $147 was not, and hasn't been since
    then.

    Last week, I got a notice "CP22A" from the IRS: "We made the
    changes you requested to your 2010 Form 1040 to adjust your
    Schedule H." I never requested any changes to my Schedule H.
    The notice said $34.00 in additional taxes plus $0.17 in
    interest are due by June 20.

    I called the number on the notice today to try to straighten
    out (a) what changes had been made to my Schedule H, since I
    never in fact requested any, (b) why the payment for my 1040X
    hadn't been direct-debited, and (c) whether what happened was,
    as I suspected, that the changes I supposedly requested to my
    Schedule H were in fact someone screwing up when processing my
    1040X. Although why it would take them until May 30 to process
    a 1040X mailed on February 25, I have no idea.

    I spent an hour and twenty minutes on the phone with the IRS.
    Got transferred four times. Nobody helped me. The final
    transfer brought me to a recording telling me I had to call
    the "business and specialty tax line" at a different number,
    and then disconnected me.

    I called the business and specialty tax line and spoke to an
    operator who said she was transferring me to "accounts." When
    I heard the recording informing me for the third time in two
    hours that I would have to listen to that insanity-inducing
    30-second-loop hold music for more than 15 minutes, I threw up
    my hands in disgust and hung up.

    Since I work in downtown Boston, I decided I would walk over
    to the JFK Federal Building and try in person to get help from
    the Taxpayer Advocate office there. When I got there, I found
    that the TA's office is a locked door with a security card
    reader and a phone on the wall next to it. I picked up the
    phone and told the woman at the other end that I wanted to
    meet with a TA, and she told me I should go to the walk-in
    Taxpayer Service center on the other side of the floor. What
    the point is of having local TA offices in all the states when
    you can't actually meet in person with them, I have no idea.

    So I walked across the floor to the TS office and waited 50
    minutes to speak to someone there. The man with whom I finally
    got to speak for a half hour seemed rather clueless. He could
    not tell me why my Schedule H had been changed, could not
    confirm or deny that my 1040X had been received and processed,
    and could not even provide me with a detailed transcript of my
    return. He said it was going to be emailed to him on Monday,
    after which he'd print it out and mail it to me. He also said
    he had no idea what he or I would be able to learn from it.

    After this, I tromped out of the TS office, walked back across
    the floor to the locked door of the TA office, and called
    their Boston phone number on my cell phone. I proceeded to
    spend a half hour on the phone with a woman who I think was
    trying to be genuinely helpful, but in the end, she couldn't
    tell me anything more than all the people with whom I'd spoken
    previously. The only advice she had to offer was to call back
    the toll-free number on Monday and try again.

    I got the distinct impression, about which I could have been
    mistaken, that she wasn't a "real" Taxpayer Advocate. She made
    a comment at one point that the "advocate on call had left for
    the day." I think she was trying to cover for the fact that he
    had clocked out early for the weekend.

    I've now spent four hours today trying to get my tax issues
    resolved, and I'm really no closer now than I was at the start.

    I have two obvious questions:

    1) What's the best way to get in touch with someone who will
    actually be able to help me, without spending hours more being
    bounced from person to person? Call the TA office again on
    Monday? Call the toll-free TA number? Call the "business and
    specialty tax line" and put up with yet another absurd hold
    because at the end of it will be someone with a clue? Call the
    general IRS number like the woman at the TA office suggested?
    Give up on the phone and send the IRS a letter? Something
    else? Surely the experts in this newsgroup have some good
    advice about how to proceed.

    2) Is there any point in complaining to anyone about this
    debacle, and if so, to whom and via what channel should I do
    so?

    Thanks for any advice you can provide.

    Regards,

    Jonathan Kamens
     
    Jonathan Kamens, Jun 12, 2011
    #1
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  2. Jonathan Kamens

    paultry Guest

    I'd start by ordering a transcript of the 2010 year by
    calling 800-908-9946 (in case the local Taxpayer Service guy
    doesn't come through). People here can help you decipher
    the transcript to see where your account stands.

    I've found it is best to ask for Taxpayer Advocate
    assistance by detailed letter. Though they are usually
    pretty good about responding to phone calls, a written
    request that meets Taxpayer Advocate criteria ("..if you
    have tried to resolve your tax problem through normal IRS
    channels and have gotten nowhere, or you believe an IRS
    procedure just isn't working as it should") usually ensures
    they will open a case to work on your issue.
    Probably not much point in complaining. The system has been
    broken for years in spite of many complaints. Best to seek
    to resolve your issue and move on.
     
    paultry, Jun 12, 2011
    #2
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  3. Jonathan Kamens

    Don Priebe Guest

    There is NO option for a direct debit from your bank account on an amended
    return. There is no place on the 1040-X for any banking information, nor
    any place for you to authorize a debit. The instructions say check or money
    order, or use the (third-party) credit/debit card service for a fee.

    You did MAIL in the 1040-X, right?

    [Not that this explains the confusion about the Schedule H adjustment.]
     
    Don Priebe, Jun 12, 2011
    #3
  4. Done, thanks.

    Can you explain to me why the people at the walk-in taxpayer
    service center are not able to view / print a transcript?
    I will do that as well, and I hope a written complaint will
    have a more beneficial effect than the half hour I spent on
    Friday dealing with the woman in the TA's office whom I
    suspect wasn't actually a TA or qualified to be helping me.
    Fair enough, but I'll probably send a bitchy letter to my
    congressman when this is all over.

    Thanks for the help.
     
    Jonathan Kamens, Jun 13, 2011
    #4
  5. Then I guess I have a bone to pick with Intuit, since the
    filing instructions for the 1040X explicitly said that the
    payment would be direct-debited. Sounds an awful lot like a
    TurboTax bug. I assumed they'd get the bank account
    information from my original 1040 on file.

    The amount of interest I'm going to end up paying is less than
    a dollar, so it's not like it's worth trying to get Intuit to
    reimburse me for the bug, but still, I should try to find a
    way to report to them that their software gave me (and
    probably others as well) incorrect filing instructions.
    Yes.

    Thanks for the response.
     
    Jonathan Kamens, Jun 13, 2011
    #5
  6. Jonathan Kamens

    paultry Guest

    According to IRM 21.2.3.4, Transcripts Procedures,
    http://www.irs.gov/irm/part21/irm_21-002-003.html#d0e148
    email delivery is just one option for retrieving a
    transcript. If the account was on-line, he could have
    pulled it up on his computer screen. If the account was
    off-line, the email route may have been the quickest
    available to him.
     
    paultry, Jun 14, 2011
    #6
  7. That wasn't really a question. Let me try again...

    I simply can't understand why the IRS hasn't taken steps to
    ensure that something as straightforward and obviously
    relevant and useful as being able to view a transcript of last
    year's tax return is always available to IRS employees who
    are in positions where they are supposed to be helping people
    solve problems with their tax returns.

    Your answer told me how things are right now from a
    facts-on-the-ground perspective. I'm asking at a higher level
    than that... why are things that way? Why isn't everyone's
    transcript available to IRS employees who need to see it to
    do their jobs, i.e., to help people?

    Is there a good reason for this, or is it just incompetence
    and shortsightedness?
     
    Jonathan Kamens, Jun 14, 2011
    #7
  8. Jonathan Kamens

    MTW Guest

    My understanding (based on a combination of experience and anecdotal
    reports) is that when a return is efiled with a payment to be debited
    IN THE FUTURE, the return isn't fully processed within the IRS system
    until the payment is received. In fact, it might take up to two weeks
    AFTER the payment date for the transcript to be fully updated. So, if
    your payment was scheduled for around April 15th, but you filed the
    amended return BEFORE that, I suppose it's possible that the amended
    return found nothing to post against (because the original return had
    not yet been fully processed) and thus was ignored. Or something like
    that.

    My own recommendation, which I fully realize won't do you any good at
    this point, is to always wait until several weeks AFTER April 15th
    before filing an amended return.

    MTW
     
    MTW, Jun 14, 2011
    #8
  9. The reason I was given was because the people working at those service
    centers are there to exam returns and work out collection problems, NOT to
    act as a service kiosk for the delivery of transcript info. Its a crappy
    explanation, but its what the office manager of a local IRS satellite office
    told me.

    To be fair, the people working in those offices are tasked with regular
    duties - just like anyone else who has a job. Having taxpayers come in off
    the street and interrupting them to get a transcript, when there are other
    ways, interfers with their work. I am NOT suggesting that the IRS shouldn't
    help, just pointing out that it is hard to do scheduled work when you're
    constantly interrupted. I also understand that because of budgetary reasons
    the IRS no longer has a dedicated "front desk" person who sits there waiting
    for walk ins.
    Don't hold your breath and don't bother complaining to the Taxpayer
    Advocate, that's not their function. If you have a legitimate complaint
    about how the IRS treated you contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax
    Administration (TIGTA) in DC.

    And for the record, you actually contributed to the problem - though I'm
    sure it wasn't intentional. You made a common mistake by amending your
    return too soon. Even though e-filed returns go into the system
    automatically, they still get processed in batches. Original returns go
    into "the system" while amended returns get looked at by real live people.
    By amending just a week after filing the original return its likely that the
    person given your amended return could not see or get to your original
    return.

    Processing of amended returns can take up to SIX (6) Months.

    Without going over your entire return I can't tell for sure, but I'd guess
    that the CP22A notice was NOT related to your amended return.

    What you may want to do is to respond to the CP22A notice with a letter
    asking for a meeting with a local case officer to resolve your issue. And
    while you did your own return, you may want to get with a local tax pro who
    uses the IRS E-Services System (though I doubt it will be cost efficient for
    you). With E-Services, a tax pro can send electronic communications to the
    IRS and they generally respond within 3 days or so. They don't always get
    it done the first time around, frequently because they can't SEE everything
    they need to from the transcript systems.

    And by the way, there are several different transcripts you can request -
    1 - wage and income transcript - shows income reported to your SSN;
    2 - account transcript - shows taxes, penalties & interest assessed,
    payments made and adjustments to your account;
    3 - return transcript - shows the line item summaries from your return.
    Does NOT show details - if you had three jobs, each paying you $10K Line 7
    of this transcript will show $30K. You'd use the wage and income transcript
    to get the detail;

    When I pull transcripts I pull these three to make sure I can everything the
    IRS has on file.

    Good luck,
    Gene E. Utterback, EA, RFC, ABA
    4 - one more, I think but I can't recall the name.
     
    Gene E. Utterback, EA, RFC, ABA, Jun 14, 2011
    #9
  10. Jonathan Kamens

    paultry Guest

    Gene,

    I always enjoy reading your measured, informative posts,
    but, I think, in this case, you are too accepting of your
    local IRS manager's explanation. First, he/she is not
    furthering the "top quality service" goal of the IRS Mission
    Statement, and I doubt that his/her manager would support
    his/her position. As to Exam and Collection personnel
    having other duties, when they are detailed out to Taxpayer
    Service, whether for one taxpayer contact or longer, their
    primary responsibility becomes Taxpayer Service. Providing
    that transcript is not then an interruption, but a
    responsibility, and a service gladly performed. Scheduled
    work may suffer, but that is the nature of the beast. Been
    there, done that. I don't know if your local office has a
    walk-in Taxpayer Assistance Center function but the OP's
    Boston office certainly does.
    http://www.irs.gov/localcontacts/article/0,,id=98286,00.html
    And the services provided by that office
    http://www.irs.gov/localcontacts/article/0,,id=159964,00.html include
    Account Inquiries, Adjustments, and Transcripts. While it
    is not a function of the Taxpayer Advocate to handle
    complaints about IRS personnel and procedures, it is their
    job to assist taxpayers who can't resolve their tax issues
    through normal IRS channels. If the OP's Taxpayer
    Assistance Center can't or won't provide assistance, TAS is
    the place to go.
     
    paultry, Jun 14, 2011
    #10
  11. I'll remember that for the future, but the problem is that
    the amended return required that I pay more money, and I
    didn't want to pay interest.

    I suppose I should have sent in a check for the $147 and then
    filed the corresponding 1040X after April 18.

    Of course, I might have had a better idea I was supposed to
    do that if TurboTax hadn't told me that the $147 would be
    direct-debited. *sigh*
     
    Jonathan Kamens, Jun 14, 2011
    #11
  12. This doesn't make any sense. Paultry's followup was correct.
    The Taxpayer Service center I want to was specifically
    intended for walk-ins. They've got a whole system set-up with
    numbered queues, cubicles, a board and oral announcements
    indicating which number is currently being served and at
    which cubicle number, etc.
    As far as I could tell, for the people working at the Taxpayer
    Service center I visited, their work WAS to help walk-ins. As
    Paultry said, I wasn't interefering with their work; I WAS
    their work.
    There was, in fact, a front-desk person who listened to me
    briefly describe my problem and then assigned me a number.
    Interestingly, it was clear that there were several different
    queues with different numbering schemes, and the dispatcher
    was putting people in different queues based on the nature of
    their problem. Alas, that didn't help me talk to someone who
    could actually help me.
    I will do that.
    OK, so this kind of thing makes no sense to people like me
    who do not spend all of their time dealing with the IRS. It
    also makes no sense to process wonks like me who simply
    cannot understand why the IRS can't do better than it does.

    I e-filed my return. I got back a notice from the IRS that my
    return had been accepted. As a reasonably intelligent person
    who has not read the Internal Revenue Manual, I think it was
    reasonable for me to conclude that once my return was
    "accepted," it was "in the system" and I could safely file an
    amended return, and it would be processed correctly.

    If that's not the case, well, then, that's just silly. It's
    broken and it needs to be fixed.
    I will do that if the Taxpayer Advocate's office, to which I
    sent a letter yesterday, does not turn out to be helpful.

    I've already sent a payment for $147.90 to the IRS, so I can
    take my time now and solve the paperwork problem in the
    manner that is the least work for me. There's no reason for
    me to pursue multiple avenues (TA's office, local case
    officer, etc.) at the same time.

    Thanks,

    Jon
     
    Jonathan Kamens, Jun 14, 2011
    #12
  13. Today, I figured out on my own, without any help from anyone
    at the IRS, what I think happened to my tax return. Well,
    mostly, anyway; there are still unanswered questions.

    As I've mentioned previously in this newsgroup, my wife and I
    employ steady babysitters, and we pay them enough every year
    to require withholding Social Security and Medicare and
    remitting them as well as FUTA to the IRS with our tax return
    each year, on Schedule H.

    Unfortunately, I made an error when filling out the Schedule H
    for 1010 and underreported the amount of wages paid to the
    various babysitters. I have no idea how this happened, but in
    any case, it means we underpaid our taxes.

    Since we withhold, we have to send our babysitters and the
    Social Security Administration (SSA) W-2's. I filled out the
    W-2's correctly, which means the withholding amounts reported
    on them were different from, and greater than, the amount
    reported on Schedule H.

    I think the SSA provides W-2 data to the IRS, and I think the
    IRS, upon receiving the correct W-2 data, cross-checked it
    against my return, corrected my return to reflect the SSA
    data, and sent me the notice reflecting changes I had
    supposedly requested.

    Unanswered questions:

    * The transcript the guy I saw at the JFK Building mailed me
    last week shows that my amended return was received, but I was
    never sent a notice or bill for the amount due under my
    amended return (recall that I thought it was going to be
    direct-debited so I didn't send a check). Is it possible that
    they haven't yet processed the amended return even though I
    sent it in February?

    * The transcript shows 05-16-2011 as the "Tax return filed"
    date, which is clearly bogus since my return was filed in
    February and they correctly direct-debited the payment due
    from that return on April 18. My best guess is that the date
    was updated when they changed my return based on the SSA data.

    * The amount the IRS billed me for, $34, isn't what I
    actually owe when I correct the error on my Schedule H; I
    have no idea how the IRS came up with that number.

    * Why hasn't the Taxpayer Advocate's office responded to the
    letter I sent them a week ago? Is that typical?

    To (I hope) fix all this, I'm filing a second 1040X with the
    correction to Schedule H. I'm enclosing with it the previous
    1040X with "PREVIOUS 1040X" written across the top of it and
    with a note in Section III of the new 1040X stating
    explicitly that this is my second one; a copy of my amended
    1040; and a copy of my amended Schedule H.

    I'm enclosing with the second 1040X a check for the additional
    amount due plus interest. Recall that I already send a check
    with a 1040-V last week to cover my first 1040X that they
    never direct-debited or billed me for.

    And then I'm going to cross my fingers and hope that the IRS
    will eventually figure all this out on their own and not
    bother me again.
     
    Jonathan Kamens, Jun 19, 2011
    #13
  14. Paultry makes an interesting observation. I made an assumption about MY
    local IRS office without considering that other satellite offices may have
    expanded services available on site. Our local office, the last time I
    visited, limited its activities to seeing local taxpayers with either exam
    or collection issues and wasn't set up as a walk in service center. In
    retrospect I can appreciate that other offices may be tasked with other
    functions.

    And I appreciate your comments about my postings. I do try to be
    informative, though sometimes I too make mistakes.

    Gene E. Utterback, EA, RFC, ABA
     
    Gene E. Utterback, EA, RFC, ABA, Jun 20, 2011
    #14
  15. The Taxpayer Advocate finally called me today in response to
    the letter I sent a week ago. I suppose a one-week turnaround
    isn't that bad.

    My theory about what happened -- that the SSA sent their data
    to the IRS and the IRS discovered from it that my Schedule H
    was wrong -- was incorrect.

    Rather, it appears that the IRS simply jumped the shark when
    processing my 1040X. They did not enter the amendments my
    1040X said they should make, and instead managed to botch some
    other data in my return which didn't need to be changed at all.

    The Taxpayer Advocate had a copy of my 1040X in front of me
    when we spoke. She asked me to send her a copy of the second
    1040X that I mailed in today, and she's going to try to
    "merge" them and produce a single 1040X that will correct all
    of the errors (the IRS's and mine) in my return, and then send
    the resulting 1040X to me for me to sign and send back to
    her, at which point she said she'll make sure it gets
    processed properly.

    I have no idea how that's going to interact with the 1040X I
    mailed in today before hearing back from the Taxpayer
    Advocate.

    At least I've sent the IRS checks at this point for all that I
    actually owe, so assuming that they credit those checks
    successfully to my account, when the paperwork nightmare is
    straightened out I presumably won't owe any interest or
    penalties.
     
    Jonathan Kamens, Jun 21, 2011
    #15
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