I haven’t been able to

I haven’t been able to travel — or post — much recently. Because I’ve been on the phone. With the IRS.

Well, I’ve been busy at work dealing with some crises (like a flood). So it’s not entirely because of the IRS. But I’ve spent way too much of the past few days jousting at bureaucratic windmills. Yesterday I spent nearly three hours on the telephone trying to find out where to get a simple IRS form. Three hours of my life that I’ll never get back.

After calling the main help line, the phone number for my local IRS office, several other offices, and the taxpayer advocate, I still had no answer.

Here are the highlights:

  • The form I needed cannot be printed from the website. Oh, it’s there, mind you. With a notice on it that says it can’t be used.
  • I ordered a form from the IRS over a month ago. Despite their 2 week time estimate, it never arrived.
  • I needed to file the form, and I was running up against a calendar deadline. So I called to find out where I could physically pick it up.
  • The IRS only has one answer — call your local branch office. Or print it off the website.
  • My local branch office has a voice tree that doesn’t give an option to speak to a person. The only opportunity for interaction is a voice mail box which promises that in the most pressing of cases, calls will be returned in 2 business days.
  • I called the forms distribution center. “We don’t know where the forms are. We only ship them to our customers.” Then where are the ones I ordered?
  • I remembered that there was a Treasury Department building with a “forms lobby.” Noone at the IRS could tell me whether it still existed. They suggested I call that Treasury office. I was bounced to an operator elsewhere, who offered me a direct number. “Oops. That’s the number you called. That’s my number. Have you tried the website?”
  • I finally tracked down a number for that office. The conversation that I had was truly priceless:
      Me: “Could you tell me whether your forms lobby is still open?”
      IRS Woman: “It’s not my job to answer that.”
      Me: “Well, it’s just in the lobby. I’m wondering whether you see a bunch of forms when you pass by there?”
      IRS Woman: “You’ve called the wrong number.”
      Me: “Do you ever walk through the lobby?”
      IRS Woman: “Yes.”
      Me: “Do you see any forms when you do?”
      IRS Woman: “I don’t look.”
      Me: “I’m not looking for an official statement from the IRS here. I’m just asking, as one very frustrated human being, for some compassion. Could you help me? Could you just tell me whether there are rows and aisles full of forms in the lobby of your building?”
      IRS Woman: “It’s not my job.” (Click)

  • I called the “Taxpayer Advocate” looking for help. They told me I called called the wrong number and would transfer me. Where, I asked? “I don’t know.”
  • My wonderful and able assistant finally took a list of all possible locations that could house the forms we needed. And got them.

Apparently, the IRS in Washington DC only had carbon copy forms that must be filled out on a typewriter! My office does not HAVE a typewriter.

However, an obscure rule does permit this form to be filled out by hand. Which I spent my morning today doing. And now, dear readers, you know why I’m stuck here — and not on an airplane, or writing to you.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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