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This is not a good time to call the IRS

The phones are already ringing off the hook, as the agency usually faces its largest call volume right after President's Day. But it's likely to get worse.

By MSN Money staff Feb 19, 2014 1:52PM

By Jonnelle Marte, MarketWatch

MarketWatch on MSN MoneyNeed tax help? Don't bother calling the IRS.

Late February is typically the worst time to call the tax man, since the number of calls being made to the IRS normally peak right after the Presidents Day holiday. But the IRS is already dropping hints that calling the agency any time this tax season is likely to be a painful experience.

Man on phone at desk © Thomas Barwick/Getty Images"I want to be up front with you and call it like it is," IRS commissioner John Koskinen told taxpayers in a video posted earlier this month on the agency's YouTube channel. "Given our very limited resources, our phone lines are going to be extremely busy this year and there will frequently be extensive wait times."

Indeed, 39 percent of the 109 million phone calls made to the IRS in 2013 went unanswered, up from roughly 30 percent in 2012, according to a report from the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent office of the IRS charged with systemic oversight.

And of those callers who were able to get a human on the phone, the average wait time was nearly 18 minutes, up from 12 minutes in 2011 and much higher than the average 3 minute wait time callers experienced in 2004.

Customer service from the IRS has suffered in recent years as the agency has balanced a heavier workload with fewer resources, Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson wrote in her 2013 report to Congress. Taxpayers also have fewer opportunities to get tax help from the IRS in person. From 2004 to 2013, as the IRS shut down some offices and reduced staff, the number of tax law questions answered in person at Taxpayer Assistance Centers or local walk-in offices maintained by the IRS dropped 86 percent to 110,000, according to the report.

And if you do reach someone on the phone at the IRS, they may not be as helpful as in years past. Koskinen said in a statement issued Thursday that the IRS is changing the services it offers through its toll-free phone line. Instead, taxpayers are encouraged to visit for answers to their tax questions.

Taxpayers can check the status of their refund checks using the Where's My Refund? tool starting 24 hours after electronically filing a tax return and four weeks after mailing a paper return. That information is generally updated once overnight, so there's no need to check it more than once a day.

Roughly 90 percent of returns are issued within 21 days, so only call if it's been longer than that. People who owe the tax man can use the Online Payment Agreement tool to figure out if they qualify for a payment plan.

You can also order copies of tax returns or transcripts on the site. And the IRS offers publications explaining various credits and deductions to help people figure out if they qualify. Find more guidance from the IRS here.

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Feb 19, 2014 2:22PM
A simplified FLAT TAX system would eliminate ALL of the problems the IRS, and the national deficit currently face. Everyone pays the same (over a set minimum poverty income level) and there are no loopholes, tax havens, deferrals, or other legalized means of avoiding your tax burden.

Problems solved, and the IRS would barely need to exist at all. They could function on 20% of their current employment, etc.

Feb 19, 2014 2:24PM
Feb 19, 2014 3:15PM
Has there ever been a good time to call the IRS? Shinequa is very hard to understand.
Feb 19, 2014 2:56PM
so in 2004 we had bush in office and the call volume was less as well as the wait time.  Just another thing bush did better than the obama administration.  just goes to show how much more problematic and confusing the system is now over only 10 years ago..  god I miss bush  
Feb 19, 2014 3:12PM

irs is a group of NAZI's and obammmy is using them to target Americans..

Feb 19, 2014 4:54PM
The IRS cant be trusted at all. The IRS is owned by we the people, They better answer all calls in a hurry. If they cant We the people needs to shut down the IRS.
Feb 19, 2014 4:43PM
I never knew calling the IRS was the right time.
Feb 19, 2014 4:23PM

Taxes on wages (in any form – flat or progressive) are the greatest evil of our American Republic. When government is free to steal from you, there are no limits to waste and abuse in government. If a person chooses to work extra hours or two jobs in order to better provide for themselves or their family, they should not be penalized, but that is what happens. The more you make by working harder and longer, the more money is stolen from you, and given to those who spend their lives living off the hard work of others.

The revenue the government needs to provide legitimate constitutional services should be obtained primarily from a national sales tax instead of a tax on wages. All would pay based on consumption, the more you spend the more you pay. The more luxury you surround yourself with, the more you pay. Your choice. A national sales tax system would capture money spent by criminals and by illegal aliens who currently pay near zero in taxes. There would of course need to be exemptions: Cars (already have a federal excise tax) Primary Residence/Rental Properties (vacation homes would be subject to tax/rental profit would be taxed) Fresh Food (Preprocessed foods and prepared meals would be taxed – only fresh/fresh frozen/canned goods would be exempt) Insurance Premiums, Health Care & Certified Education.

Adding another layer of tax to a business would not be fair. Businesses would need to be compensated by keeping a portion of the tax to cover the expense of collection and reporting. A percentage of .20 to .05 would be fair.

Feb 19, 2014 5:01PM
I think I'll wait for their call rather than bother them... see if it helps.
Feb 19, 2014 4:38PM

The last thing I'd do is waste my time calling the IRS for answers.  If you're given incorrect information and it's their fault, you're still liable for any reporting errors or underpayment.  If the IRS website doesn't clarify any dilemmas, your best bet it to go to a CPA whose fee may be less than the penalties and interest you might otherwise incur, and often their "free" financial advice will save you money in the future.  I'm not an accountant, BTW.

I'm all for a flat tax or more simplified tax code, but I don't expect to see it in my lifetime.

Feb 19, 2014 4:23PM
There is never a good time to call or write the IRS. Just ask a bum on the street. His answer will be no better or worse than from the IRS.
Feb 19, 2014 5:09PM
We already electronically filed at the beginning of this month.  When we did we got a message saying to expect delays on refunds because of the IRS being shut down last year.   
Feb 19, 2014 7:55PM
Argh! A refund is not a "return". Stop calling them that.
Feb 19, 2014 6:30PM
It's also not a good time to quit sniffing glue.
Feb 25, 2014 9:08PM
I filed my 2012 Federal Income Tax Return on November 27, 2013, by sending it to the Fresno, CA IRS Service Center.  It is now February 25, 2014, and I have received absolutely nothing from the IRS,, especially my refund.  I have tried the " Where is My Refund"  site numerous times, however the only response I consistently receive is "We have no information regarding your refund".  I have also called numerous times on the phone, however, as expected, I encountered extensive waiting times, and constantly get transferred to an incorrect place.  I sent a certified letter to the Fresno, CA. IRS Service Center inquiring about my refund, however have received nothing in return.  I constantly hear stories about how the IRS has incorrectly paid billions of dollars in refunds to foreigners filing falser returns, however I am an American born citizen, who filed an accurate and complete income tax return, and I can't even find out the status, let alone receive my refund.!!  I am now going to file a Congressional Complaint, however this will probably not result in any meaningful result either.  The IRS is a thoroughly BROKEN organization !!!
Feb 22, 2014 7:27PM
i never have had a problem with the IRS when i had questions or they were auditing me.  they were very professional and helpful.  i am talking about the last 20 issues!
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