I work in a large office building, one that is home to a variety of state and federal agencies. We have the Department of Homeland Security above us, the Motor Vehicle Division below us and on my floor we have a branch office of the IRS with a bright sign that says “Tax payer questions answered here!”
I was taking a quick walk outside for a breath of fresh air and noticed that there was nobody in the lobby of the IRS office, so I thought I’d pop in to ask a quick tax question I had. Now, bear in mind as you read further, that I actually like doing my taxes and, further, I bear no ill will to the IRS. I like all the things my taxes help pay for (like roads and bridges and whatnot) so I am not anti-IRS at all.
Or, at least that is how I used to feel….
I open the doors to the empty lobby and a security guard barks at me “you need to take a ticket!” before I can even say a word. I dutifully take a ticket, even though I am literally the only person in the lobby.
I can see the IRS employee in his cubicle, appearing to wrap up with the person he is working with. I wander around and look at some tax forms, as I am clearly next and this shouldn’t take too long.
I glance over and see that the lady is now standing and has her coat on. My time is coming…
But, wait, now the employee and the lady are chatting with someone on the phone together. About something that is happening at the church fellowship hall next weekend. She is taking her coat off. I sigh and sit down, pulling out my phone to check my email while I wait.
“No cell phones! You need to put that away!” The guard barks at me again.
I dutifully put my phone away and look around the lobby for something to read. There is nothing but tax forms. I like taxes but not that much. I check the clock. Ten minutes have passed. I think about giving up, but I am the only one here. Surely it can’t take too much longer. Right?
The lady finally leaves the cubicle and I stand up, ready to be called, when I hear the employee start making a phone call. Something about Christmas gifts and whether or not Barb wants a gift card this year. I sit back down. I check the clock. 17 minutes in. I am still the only person here. There are 8 cubicles but nobody is calling numbers. I feel myself aging.
Finally, finally, 25 minutes in there is a DING! and my number pops up on the screen.
“Hi, I just had a quick question.”
“Okay, have a seat”
“I’ve been doing some freelance work this year and I was wondering if you could give me a sense or help me determine how to figure out how much money to set aside for taxes from that?”
“Well, I can’t tell you that kind of information. You are going to need to research that yourself. You should look at the schedule C or C-EZ or look online for information.”
“Oh. Okay. I just thought that maybe there were some general guidelines to follow?”
“Ma’am, I can’t answer those kinds of questions. You have to do your own research”
“Well, I guess I thought that talking to someone at the IRS is doing my research…”
“Do you have any other questions?”
“Yes, actually. I know I can’t claim a home office deduction because I don’t have a dedicated space, but can I claim part of my internet service as a business expense?”
(Deep sigh) “Ma’am, you are going to have to do your own research or, if you have a lot of questions, you should really talk to a tax professional”
“But…this is the IRS office…aren’t you a tax professional?”
“I am an employee of the Taxpayer Assistance Center, yes”
“But you can’t actually answer any of these questions? So I should go talk to someone who doesn’t work for the IRS to determine what the IRS laws are? Is that what you are saying?”
“Well, those aren’t my words, but yes.”
ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME.
This, THIS, is why people hate the IRS.
I would like that 45 minutes of my life back, please.