Not exactly a newsflash; just restating how the IRS wastes time and money.
I just got off the phone with the IRS. I’d called them because I needed a confirmation letter with my company name and EIN. I’d had a document like that, but it was likely among those destroyed when my WASband stored cardboard boxes of my personal and business documents, books, and software on the floor of my hangar and the hangar flooded, thus destroying everything in those boxes. If he still wonders why I threw so many of his personal items into random cardboard boxes in the garage during the 10 months I lived in our Wickenburg home last autumn/winter/spring, that should give him a clue. He should consider himself lucky that I didn’t leave those boxes outside or turn the hose on them.
Anyway, I tried to get the document I needed online. I got some comic relief from the search system on the IRS website before zeroing in on a document with instructions that I thought would help.
You can read as well as I can. The third bullet point tells me to call the Business & Specialty Tax Line at a toll-free number. So I dialed it up on my cell phone, pressed 1 when prompted to get English (really?), and then pressed 3 to tell them I needed an EIN certification letter. The machine then warned me I’d have a 30 minute wait time.
I got out my bluetooth earpiece, plugged it into my ear, and turned it on. And then I went about my business while on hold.
I waited more than 30 minutes. It didn’t really bother me because my cell phone has unlimited minutes and the music they were playing was tolerable. I did some banking and wrote a few email messages. I washed the dishes. I updated my to-do list.
58 minutes after dialing, a series of beeps and clicks told me something was happening. After a moment, a woman got on the line.
I told her what I needed. She asked me questions to confirm my identity. Then she said she’d “generate a letter” and that I’d get it “in the mail in 5 to 7 business days.”
I asked if it were possible to have the letter generated as a PDF and emailed to me. She said they didn’t have the ability to do that. That didn’t surprise me in the least. An organization that takes nearly an hour to answer a phone call isn’t one that’s likely to be too technologically savvy.
We talked briefly about my hour-long wait on a toll-free number. It didn’t cost me a dime — directly. But as a taxpayer, it cost me money. If you pay taxes in the U.S., it cost you money, too. After all, toll-free numbers might be free to people who dial them, but they’re not free to the people who answer them. I don’t know what the going rate is, but even if it’s only 5¢/minute, the IRS spent $3 to make me wait on hold. Assuming I wasn’t the only one with an hour-long wait today, that’s $3 for every call they take.
We also talked about the cost of generating that letter, stuffing it into an envelope, putting a stamp on it, and sending it to me. That’s another buck or two in materials cost and labor, no?
Of course, she doesn’t care. She’s got a job and she’d doing it. I understand that and told her I didn’t blame her in the least. I just told her I wished our government could step up into the 21st century with the rest of us.
They could do that, of course, by giving business owners access to the database. Have a front end that asks me the same questions she asked to give me the ability to generate the document onscreen or as a PDF for immediate access. The phone call wouldn’t be necessary, the wait wouldn’t be necessary. I’d have my document now instead of having to wait a week to get it.
Why do I need this particular document? Ironically, so I can upload it to a website as documentation for opening a new account. At least someone is using technology right.