Yesterday, I had occasion to call the IRS. This is because they sent me a letter saying that I had made a mistake on my tax payment and they would be sending me a refund of $34.94.
Then, they sent me a check for $2,807.86.
It’s not that I’m a particularly upstanding citizen or anything, but here’s my concern about what might happen: what if seven years from now I have lost my job, and I have some terrible disease that costs a lot of money to treat, and I have been evicted from my apartment, and the love of my life has just told me that I’m essentially an unloveable person, and my car has broken down, and zombies have taken over the world, and fire is raining down from the heavens? And what if the IRS picks that moment to contact me and tell me that they realized they’ve made a mistake and I owe them $2,772.92?
It’d be the last thing I’d need right then.
So, I decide to tell the IRS they might have sent me too much money.
I look on their website for some non-phone-based way to contact them. I also look for any sort of FAQ or document that addresses my situation. I look for a long time, but I can’t find anything, so I give up and call.
I get a phone tree and I proceed through it obediently. It is very long, and it isn’t at all clear what area of the phone tree is my area. I get to what I think is my area, and a recorded voice tells me to hold for assistance. Then, the voice says that there are too many people trying to get assistance in my area that day so I’ll have to call again some other time, and it hangs up on me.
I do something else for awhile. Then, I call again. I pick different items in the phone tree, like picking different paths after you’ve died in a Choose Your Own Adventure book.
This time, I get into some sort of automated Refunds help thingy, but when I try to answer the questions to the effect that I have gotten too much money, the automated thingy tells me that it’s not equipped for that sort of number and I’m in the wrong place.
I hang up and do something else for awhile.
Then I notice there’s a different phone number on the web site than the one on my letter, so I call it, and I get a very bored-sounding woman. She immediately asks me a long string of questions that don’t apply to what I need to tell her. I break in rather rudely and tell her that I’m very sorry, but I seem to have been sent too much money and I need to tell someone about it.
There is a long pause. She says, “You got too much money?”
She says it like I had called her up to complain to her about what a burden my inherited wealth is to me.
“I just don’t want to get in any trouble,” I say.
“I’ll put you through to individual accounts,” she says, and I’m connected to hold music. I put my phone on speaker and set it down.
One full hour later, the hold music is still playing. I hang up, but now I can’t do something else for awhile because I’m too angry. I just want to give the IRS back their $2,772.92 and they’re too busy and important to take it?
I search the website again, in a blaze of righteous indignation. There has to be an email address on it somewhere, or something that has to do with my situation.
But I do find a thing where you can enter your phone number and have the IRS call you when they’re ready. I do that.
The IRS calls me back immediately! I answer.
It is the same woman I talked to last time.
She says she’ll put me through to individual accounts, and I explain that I was on hold for an hour, and then I think that I should have told her that I was on hold for 48 minutes, because saying “an hour” just sounds like you mean “a long damn time” which was probably only 15 minutes because people are impatient. But I had really waited a full hour because I didn’t want to lose my spot. I tell her that I really don’t think individual accounts is answering their phones, and is there any sort of email address I could potentially use?
She says no, but what she can do for me is to put me through to individual accounts.
So, I hang up and buy a $2,000.00 blue polyester couch for my new house on the J.C. Penney’s website. The IRS can come collect it whenever they want.