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Musing While Waiting on Hold for Someone at the IRS to Answer My Question

By Joel N. Crouch on August 11. 2021
Trying to work out a client’s IRS issues these days can be frustrating for the client and the tax professional. You can’t throw a stone without hitting a story about delays and problems the IRS is having. I was recently waiting on hold with the IRS hoping to find someone who could help me find out the status of my client’s refund claim. While I listened to the “wonderful” hold music that is on a 30 second loop and hoped I would not a get a “courtesy” hang up, I started doing some web surfing and stumbled onto the Taxpayer Advocate Service webpage. At the very top of the TAS webpage is the following: “Refund delayed? Our ability to help may be limited” and a link to a page detailing why the TAS may not be able to help with a delayed refund. Not a good sign.

I then wandered over to the TAS blog and found this blog post from May 2021, NTA Blog: Lifecycle of a Tax Return . It is a very good discussion of the process a tax return goes thru once it is filed. It also has a link to a very colorful map prepared by the TAS that is titled “The Taxpayer Roadmap-An Illustration of the Modern United States Tax System”. A description of the map says:

“The map below illustrates, at a very high level, the stages of a taxpayer’s journey, from getting answers to tax law questions, all the way through audits, appeals, collection, and litigation. It shows the complexity of tax administration, with its connections and overlaps and repetitions between stages. As you can see from its numerous twists and turns, the road to compliance isn’t always easy to navigate. But we hope this helps taxpayers find their way.”
If you look at the map you will see it is very complicated and it is not hard to imagine a taxpayer getting frustrated as they try to understand how the IRS works and how they get their refund. Even more shocking is the fact that someone at the IRS thought this map would be helpful.

I then went back to the TSA blog post, “Lifecycle of a Tax Return”, and read the following paragraph in the Conclusion and Recommendations:

“Further, it is unlikely that calling the IRS will yield additional information because through May 8, 2021, the IRS reported a level of service (LOS) on its Accounts Management telephone lines of 15 percent. Only seven percent of taxpayer calls reached a telephone assistor, and at the lowest point the IRS’s customer service representatives only answered about two percent of the roughly 70 million taxpayer calls to the IRS’s 1040 telephone lines, with the IRS reporting an official LOS of five percent. In other words, only about one out of every 50 calls has gotten through to a telephone assistor. And even if a taxpayer can reach the IRS, the assistor will likely not be able to determine why the return is sitting in suspense. This leaves taxpayers without answers and still frustrated in trying to determine what went wrong, the cause of the delay, and the timing of their expected refund.”

After that, I was not surprised to get a recording telling me to call back later when someone might be available to answer my call. There was no mention of whether the person who answered my call could answer my question.

For questions regarding this blog post or any other civil or criminal tax related matter, please feel free to contact Joel Crouch at (214) 749-2456 or jcrouch@meadowscollier.com.