Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Please Stay On The Line

Back when I was running my tutoring center I had to get an Employer Identification Number (the corporate equivalent to a Social Security number) from the IRS. They told me I needed it in order to pay my handful of employees and to file business tax returns. When I closed the center six years ago I forgot all about that EIN.  Now that I'm self-employed I'm considered an independent contractor for the companies I've signed up with. Most of them have asked for my Social Security number, but the latest one requires an EIN.

I wasn't sure if the old number was still good, so I tried finding the information on the IRS website. After a lot of false starts I found what I thought was the answer, but I wanted to talk to a real person just to be sure.  Over the past two days I've called the IRS several times. The first time after navigating all the prompts I was told my wait time would be 15-30 minutes. I hung up. Later in the day when I tried a second time, the automated system gave me an estimated time of 45-60 minutes. I hung up again.

Last night I was talking with someone who knows the ins and outs of the IRS. They said that because of budget cutbacks the Service had to cut back on phone support, which was leading to longer wait times.  I understood what they were saying, but that didn't make me less annoyed.

Today I tried to get my question answered via online chat, but the person couldn't help me; I'd have to call. So I made sure my phone was charged up and dialed the number one more time.  After so many call attempts I could navigate the prompts by memory. When I got to the right queue I was told someone would be with me within 30 minutes.

It actually was more like 45. While I was waiting I played some computer mah jong and did a little internet surfing. I chopped vegetables for dinner, put dishes in the dishwasher, and wiped down the kitchen countertops.  The hold music was really starting to get on my nerves by the time a pleasant-sounding woman came on the line.   She found out what my question was, then put me on hold for a few minutes while she did some research. The answer ended up being what I thought it was, but while I was on the phone I took the opportunity to update my records in the IRS system.

At the end of the conversation I told the woman I knew she was working hard at her stressful job and thanked her.  She gratefully acknowledged my compliment.  By her tone of voice I don't think she's had anyone say that to her recently.

Five years ago today: Figuring It Out


  1. Shame about the budget cuts; these call centers are such a help.

  2. The difference between a government call center and one for a company like Amazon: I had an issue I wanted to talk to someone at Amazon. Under the "contact" tab they have an option to have someone call you back. I clicked on that button and before I could ick my finger off the keyboard, the phone was ringing. I can't even imagine how they could call that fast!!