Calling the Number Provided in IRS Correspondence

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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.

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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.

Comments

  1. Robert Kantowitz says

    This will not get fixed until a court holds that an IRS demand or other action that is not crystal clear on its face to a person of ordinary intelligence and experience is a nullity, as a due process violation, if the IRS does not provide telephone assistance 24/7 sufficient to clarify to that standard what the IRS expects the taxpayer to do. I’m not expecting that the IRS give tax advice, but it is incumbent on the government not to issue demands that normal taxpayers cannot understand. A case in point: the automatic underreporting program asks for the payment and the taxpayer’s agreement with the calculation. OK. But then months later, you get a scary consent to assessment with no numbers or explanation. “What’s this? I agreed and paid months ago! And there is no indication how much this consent is for!” I did get an IRS rep on the phone, whose explanation was less than definitive: “Just sign it . . . trust me, we won’t charge you more . . . or didn’t you get the notice of deficiency . . . oops we haven’t sent that yet.” At least I can piece together the baroque IRS process, but no one who is not a tax professional can.

  2. Robert Nassau says

    Our clinic has had 4 taxpayers who needed ID Verify for this filing season. As Keith writes, no one answers the ID Verify Phone, and the on-line Auto-Verify is impossible for lower-income taxpayer to successfully navigate. For all 4, we eventually sought TAS Assistance. Two of those 4 have gotten their refunds, and I expect the other 2 will soon. This shouldn’t be something TAS has to fix. I SAMSed it (for whatever that’s worth; this is probably not news to anyone at the IRS).

  3. Lazlo Beh says

    A corollary of this is the question of does the IRS really need to subject the tax return to the ID verification process, or all the tax returns that it is subjecting? What is the trigger? ID verification seems to be happening more frequently in the last couple of years, and this even before the stimulus payments and new 2021 CTC created an incentive for traditional non-filers to start filing. I think that one of the pieces of information in the ID verification notice should be the specific reason the return was selected, e.g., you haven’t filed a return for the last x years, or, our records show that you are incarcerated, or whatever. Incidentally, our clinic just submitted SAMS 49708 to say that taxpayers whose returns are filed by VITA’s should not be subject to the ID verification program because the VITA’s are required to verify the taxpayer’s ID by requiring that the taxpayer provide a photo ID and SS card before filing the return. Maybe the IRS is just subjecting too many returns to the ID verification process in the first place?

  4. Anthony R says

    ID Verification at 800-830-5084 is supposed to be available from 7am to 7pm local time to anyone who received letters 4883C/5071C/5747C. Most taxpayers hit a roadblock when they don’t have prior year return information with them and take a guess at the questions asked. Used to be wrong guesses lock your SSN in the system and the next step would be a visit to a local office with picture ID and the other information listed in the letter they received. ID verification was only done by reps trained for it, training more reps would speed the verification and help process tax refunds caught up by taxpayer protection filters in processing.

    • I just looked back at my cell phone records. I have an asked to verify my identity with the IRS, and I am unable to do it online. According to my records, I have called 137 times. 135 of these times, I have received a recording telling me to call back. Twice I actually got through.

      The first time I got through was in early June. The IRS employee identified herself as employee number 100-264-9842. She got frustrated with me, and I still do not know why. She hung up on me when I misunderstood a question she was asking. The second time I got through was in mid July. This employee‘s number was 100155679. She placed me on hold, and after 42 minutes of being on hold, I was disconnected.

      I have no idea how to get through to the IRS in order to verify my identity. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

  5. The dead end terminal phone numbers are the service the IRS wants to render to Americans. It takes a special kind of person to work at the IRS, especially in the collections. I heard if any IRS employees try to render real service they are punished or fired.

    No customer service is going on because that is exactly what the IRS wants. It’s that way because the IRS powers want it that way.

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