Tax Insights

Your Guide to State, Local, Federal, Estate + International Taxation

Is funding all that is required to fix the IRS?

IRS, customer service, tax, phoneLet me tell you, right now, that the customer service experience when dealing with the IRS is not pleasant. Even if you are a tax professional.

Nina Olson was talking to Congress on Friday, May 19th and maintains that an adequately funded IRS is the solution to improvement with customer service.

Perhaps funding is part of the issue, but that is not all of it. Let me just give you an example of one client experience this month.

“Jane” (not her real name) is a recent widow – her husband died from cancer in January 2017. We prepared the joint tax return for “Jane” and her husband and the return was accepted electronically by the IRS on March 14th.

“Jane” contacts me after tax season and lets me know that she has yet to receive her refund from the IRS and could I find out why. So we contact the IRS under the third party designee from the Form 1040. Here are the responses that we get:

  • “I do not know what a third party designee is. You need a power of attorney”
  • We call back. “You are not the signer on the return. You need a power of attorney.”
  • When explained that we do not need a power of attorney, because we are calling on the 2016 return, under the third party designee, we finally get someone who understands third party designee.
  • We are then informed that the client cannot get the refund without a Form 1310.
  • We explain that the surviving spouse on a joint return does not need a Form 1310. We are told that one must be filed. So we prepare the unnecessary form and have the client come in and sign it.
  • At the same time, we prepare a power of attorney, because this is ridiculous, and I am very annoyed on behalf of my client. So we fax in the power of attorney and call back the IRS. We are now told that the return had just been “in limbo” and was waiting for a phone call to release it.
  • “Jane” should have her refund no later than the end of June.

All of this effort on behalf of one client. It is not her fault. It is not our fault. We cannot bill her for this. And all to receive a $6,400 refund. Which, by the way, was all of $38 less than the 2015 refund. There should have been no reason that this return was held up.

So, to reiterate, funding will help. But this is more than an issue of funding. It is an issue of training. And maybe not being so beaten down by the system that you are engaged enough to find out the answer. If the current system is not broken, it is definitely fractured.

Donna H. Laubscher, CPA