Ah, tax time in the United States!
April 15th, is by law, the day on which all individual tax returns must be filed and returned to the IRS.
I had the opportunity to phone the IRS - Internal Revenue Service (responsible for US tax collections) - to request a form for my tax return.
As with phoning any government office, I was prepared for the worse when calling the IRS. I expected long hold times, long messages and complex phone trees.
(Afterall, the role of the goverment and large corporations is to shield any employee from uneccessary phone calls and direct contact with the public. In their eyes, all phone calls are uneccessary when they originate from taxpayers or customers).
First, when calling the IRS, one must understand and navigate the questioning of automated attendants accurately.
For me, that meant understanding which IRS form I was requesting and how it applied to the IRS's system of handling calls. A copy of a W2 is part of the tax preparation calling tree and not the refund process for instance.
Next, all IRS employees answer their call, "This is Mr. Davis, GE ID xxxxxx. How may I help you?".
This is interesting. In the private sector, I would never imaging answering my phone. "This is Mr Jones, company ID xxxxx. How can I help you today".
I answer my phone, "Thank you for calling XBX Corp. This is Jack, how can I help you?".
I imagine that the IRS has their employees state their names in this manner as sign of professionalism and also, possibly, to protect their identity. I found it rather impersonal and not along the lines of a new, friedlier IRS I had seen advertised lately.
The IRS employee, with tremendous efficiency, transferred my call to another line where I went into holding pattern for about ten minutes.
No problem, I expect this from the IRS during their busiest time - sort of like the returns line at Macy's the week after Christmas.
When my call was picked up, another IRS customer service representative, "Mrs Green, GE number xxxxxx" answered.
When I attempted to let "Mrs Green" know what I needed, she interupted and recited the List of Acceptable IRS Questions (and Appropriate Answers).
After about five minutes of careful and robotic answers, and learning my name, tax ID and address, the IRS's "Mrs Green" put me on hold for two or three minutes.
When "Mrs Green" returned, her demeanor changed entirely. She seemed almost gleeful.
That was when I got nervous. Very nervous. It is not good when the IRS is happy about talking to a taxpayer.
I imagined this huge IRS computer churning out a single printout "IRS Tax Criminal - Audit with Extreme Prejudice - Crime: Failure To Have Correct Form".
I imagined "Mrs Green", realizing that she was in for an unexpected bounty bonus for locating an IRS criminal, envisioning herself receiving the IRS Employee of the Year Award.
"Mrs Green" and I did not even say goodbye. The call ended with silence and a disconnect.
Afterwards, I had a troubled night.
I tossed and turned, waiting for the invetitable crash of glass as the IRS raided my home searching for my missing tax form. My wife punched me and told me to stop imagining things and go to sleep.
Things do look better in the morning, my tax return is complete and ready to be mailed.
April 15th is just around the corner. File early and file often!
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