Maybe it was the time of day. Or maybe I was just lucky. That’s what the CPA who prepares my tax return told me when we were able to reach the Philadelphia office of the IRS twice in a row, to speak with someone about some pesky notices I had been receiving.

Had I called later in the day I might have reached an office in a later time zone, he indicated, which might not have handled my case as easily and efficiently as did the Philadelphia office.

We had just dialed the 800 number at the top of the notice. The number distributes calls throughout IRS locations, or campuses. 

The first time I called, the Philadelphia office said that the computers were down. When I called again 10 minutes later, I also got the Philadelphia office, and the computers were back up. This was a good thing, according to the CPA who does my taxes.

"They know what they're doing at the Philadelphia office," he said. “If we'd gotten a different office, they might not have understood the issue, and you would have had to put everything in writing."

To back up a little: I rent out a small apartment to a subsidized renter. I don’t know what federal or state program subsidizes the renter, or for what reason, only that I receive a check from the county each month to pay the rent. A local private social services agency used to send the check, but now my county office of social services sends it to me each month. While I fully included the rent on my Schedule E, the county inexplicably checked the wrong box on the Form 1099 it supplied to the IRS, labeling it “other income” instead of “rents.” Naturally, this resulted in an apparent underreporting of income on my part.

Visions of endless bureaucratic fumbling and back-and-forth communications reared in my head as I wrestled with the problem of how best to explain this, what forms of proof I would need, and would they even believe me?

Thankfully, the IRS person I spoke with was both pleasant and professional, and had the authority to handle the case on her own. I wasn’t transferred to someone else, or placed on hold, or told to supply supporting documentation. The phone call lasted less than five minutes, and resulted in a “no change” to my tax liability.

I don’t really know whether the case would have been handled all that differently at any other IRS location. The astonishing aspect for me was that my most satisfactory customer service experience over the last 12 months was not in the private sector, but with the IRS. Go figure!

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Accounting Today content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access