I got a letter from the IRS. Ominous, I know. I made a stupid mistake on my tax return, filed an amended return, sent them more money and, as a result, I owed them some (but not a lot of) interest. They wanted me to pay them 4 cents more than they wanted me to pay them last month, because, according to them, I didn’t pay them last month. But I did. I paid it right at the deadline, due to my incompetence, not due to trying to earn more interest on the money in my bank account. I really don’t have that much money in the bank and interest rates are awful these days. I don’t think you can even measure the interest I would have earned over that short period of time on $15.00. When I pushed the deadline, I did have the envelope hand-cancelled at the post office just to be sure I was okay.
Automated phone attendants are machines designed to let a computer give you information you didn’t really need while keeping you from talking to a human being who could help you, for an extended period of time.
I was impressed that the notice from the IRS was dated a week after I received it. Even though I don’t think they mailed it next week, that’s still really efficient. The automated phone attendant was impressively efficient too since it kept me from talking to someone who could help me for about half an hour. It did tell me the waiting time would me more than 15 minutes, so that was right too. I would, however, have chosen different music to play in my ear over a low-quality phone line, and if I had it to do over again, I’d call from a speaker phone.
But, eventually, through perseverance, and a sore ear, I got to talk to a very pleasant woman at the IRS. She gave me her name and ID number. I was surprised that she gave her name because I’ve worked in a couple of local tax offices where the people who answered the phone wouldn’t. They didn’t want people coming over to their houses and harassing them.
Anyway, the pleasant woman looked up my account, confirmed that they did receive the payment and said the notice must have crossed with the payment in the mail. She also said I do not owe the additional four cents. I, of course, wrote down her name, her ID number and the date and time she told me I was good to go. There are bad apples in any bunch, but this woman is positive example that negative stereotypes of civil servants are anything but universally applicable
I understand the IRS deals with a stunning number of people, so I’m not really kvetching too much about the long wait to talk to someone who could help. The point I’m making is the pleasant woman who could help did help. So, thanks to her and to the IRS. I’m not going to share her name with you, but if anyone from the IRS is reading this and contacts me, I’d certainly identify and praise her through official channels.