Thursday, July 30, 2009

Weekend Assignment #277: Your call is very important to us

First, I have to say that I missed last week's assignment by total accident. I was confused as to what day it was (it happens with my work schedule at times) and I thought I had another day to do it. Yes, I need a calendar in front of me at all times. Better yet, someone to just sit next to me and remind me what day it is.

Anyway, on with this week's assignment. Karen asks:

Weekend Assignment: #277: We've all become used to automated phone routers ("To continue in English, press 1"), long waits at government offices and other bureaucratic obstacles to getting something done. Have you any particular horror stories along these lines, or have you had mostly good experiences with government agencies?

Actually, mine haven't been too bad. It's very surprising since most of my phone dealings with government agencies were tax related. Those are never good. I get nervous just thinking about taxes and the IRS. (They are reading this now, aren't they? Crap.)

Anyway, a couple of years ago when I had our taxes done, the person preparing them asked if we wanted to file electronically. I said yes thinking we'd get our measly refund back quicker. So, when we got our packet of materials in the mail I opened them, gave them a quick once over, and put them to the side. My brother, as he usually does, called when he got his refund and asked if we had ours. We didn't, but I didn't think too much about it. Until it was about April 13th, or so, when I thought we should really have gotten the money since we filed so early.

So, I called the IRS to check on our filing. I was nervous just dialing them up. I was afraid I'd trigger some kind of audit by calling them. (Ha Ha! No need to audit, if you are still reading. Everything is cool here!) Surprisingly, I got a gentleman on the phone pretty quickly and he informed me that, no, we had nothing on file. That's when I decided to look more closely at the papers we had received about 6 weeks before that and noticed we had to send everything in. We still got our money, but not as early as we would have liked. At least the guy on the phone was nice.

This year was a little different. We tried to file our state return electronically ourselves but we needed a PIN number for some reason. Since we have someone else do our taxes usually, we had no PIN. And since I was being the typical me and waiting until the second-to-last day, when I tried to call the number I got the, "We are experiencing and unusually high call rate. Please try again later." Yeah, right. I ended up mailing it in. I did notice a short blurb in the local people about people not able to get through. They said they were overloaded by an unexpected number of calls. Really? How can it be unexpected at tax time? Everyone waits until the last day, surely they understand that! (This is a state matter, nothing to do with the national IRS system. No siree!)

The only other thing I have learned over time is to not wait until the day before you need to have a new village sticker on your car to go buy them. That was a long line!

Extra Credit: Does this problem seem to be getting better or worse?

Well, it seems it isn't getting any better. Maybe not worse though.


Dreamybee said...

I've come close to making that mistake too, thinking that if the refund is being done electronically, so is everything else. I guess they still have to have your signature on the document.

I actually think government phone services tend to be better than private company services. I hate trying to call anybody for customer service anymore!

Mike said...

Dreamybee: You may be right. The private company phone services can be pretty bad. I live in Illinois, so I automatically think everything associated with our state government is terrible. It's just the way it is. :)

Karen Funk Blocher said...

If you use TurboTax or anothe rprogram like it, you can set up a pin online, which acts as your electronic "signature" - or something like that. No need for phone calls. But you remind me of a blog entry I wrote back in 2004 called "Hooray for Taxes!" I let it stand for about a day, but was so paranoid about some IRS agent seeing it (even though there was nothing shady in it) that I deleted the whole entry!

Mike said...

Karen: Actually I did use TurboTax. I forgot to mention in the post that I kept getting the infamous "server busy" error as well. Very annoying.

So far no e-mails from the government. Yet.