This has been a tough year for the IRS. For a variety of reasons not the least of which is the pandemic, it has faced numerous challenges. My understanding is that its performance in answering the general phone line during the filing season ranged somewhere between 2-5% which is not good but it’s not zero.
A couple years ago I wrote a complaining post about the offer in compromise unit in Brookhaven that gave out a phone number no one ever answered. I know from personal experience with that number how frustrating it can be to try to reach a number, the only number you are given, and no one ever answers. I likened the situation to the circumstances facing Joseph K in Franz Kafka’s classic novel, The Trial. After I wrote that post, the phone problem with Brookhaven was fixed very quickly. Inspired by that success, and discouraged my two specialty phone numbers that seem to be a dead letter box, I am writing another post about phone numbers the IRS provides but does not answer. I am not sure how this happens but it should not. I hope that someone can address the problem.
The first phone number that no one answers is the phone number for people seeking to verify their ID. I encountered this earlier this year when I had back to back offer in compromise cases the examiners expressed a readiness to accept but the taxpayers had an outstanding ID verification issue. I obtained the phone number to verify their identity and gave it to the clients expressing to them the urgency with which they needed to address the verification issue. Each client took me seriously and tried to verify their identity but could never get through. The offer examiners give you a deadline to do the things they request of you. I understand why they do this and do my best to meet their deadlines but here we could not meet the deadline since the clients could not get anyone to answer the phone. I sent a message to my local taxpayer advocate asking if he could help. He got each of the cases assigned to a case advocate. The case advocate was able to make the ID verification happen, the clients got their offers accepted, all was well but this is an expensive way for the IRS to deal with a bad phone number.
This past week I received a phone call from the person who runs the After Innocence project. He has created an organization to assist exonerees with all of the issues they face once released. The tax clinic at Harvard does the tax work for the exonerees and it has been very rewarding work for the students over the past several years. We have Kelley Miller to thank for getting us started and for jumping in to assist us occasionally. The director of the project reached out to me because he now has 20 exonerees who need to verify their ID with the IRS in order to receive a refund or a stimulus payment; however, he cannot get anyone to answer the phone when he calls the number provided. I was not surprised that he was having trouble with this since his difficulty mirrored the difficulty my clients had earlier this year. Because going through the verification process serves as a gateway to other matters – getting an offer accepted or getting a refund – this is a critical number. I solicit suggestions on how to get through to the number or to work around the problem created by the IRS not picking up the phone when the number provided in its correspondence is used.
A second phone number is not working according to readers of the blog. I do not have personal experience with this number. I wrote a post last June about lost or destroyed EIP cards. We have received 27 comments on this post to date but I want to highlight some that focus on the phone issue and two which are very recent:
June 25, 2020 – Did you figure out how to get your replacement card cuz I have had no luck and when calling that number it told me the same thing I am stuck and need help
March 31, 2021 – There is no number that one they have 1800-240-8100 does not work
April 26, 2021 – The only recourse is to call an 800 customer service line, when you are prompted to press 2 for a lost card, it spews some rigamarole and disconnects you…I’ve tried several times to replace my lost card,
With the same result
May 13, 2021 – Same Results that Number does not Work. What can you do? It says press 2 , and then says check http://www.irs.gov/eip which leads back to that number which you can’t do anything. If you find any info which works let me know via email
The inability to get through to a specific phone number for resolving a problem creates more problems that the difficulty getting through with a general call. Neither problem is good but if you need to get through to a number to receive a refund or a replacement stimulus card the inability to get through becomes magnified. If/when Congress gives the IRS additional funding, I hope that some of it will be headed to fix these types of customer service issues.