There are many things that the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) does that I would hope the IRS never adopts. But some might appreciate it if the IRS would follow the example of the FTB when it comes to their customer service phone lines.
Clearly the IRS could never deliver the same level of customer service as a state taxing entity, due to the insanely large number of calls that IRS gets each day. I don’t think anybody really expects them to compete on that level. Likewise, it is naive to think that the state should be able to answer every call as it comes in without leaving taxpayers on hold. However, FTB has figured out a way to make it much more convenient for the caller. The FTB phone system has a feature that allows the taxpayer to request a call-back during times of heavy call volume. The system estimates about how long you’ll have to wait on hold if you choose to hold, and then gives you the option of leaving your name and number and having a customer service rep call you back during that same time frame.
This call-back feature is handy for tax attorneys and tax practitioners, but it is especially useful for unrepresented taxpayers. I have used the call-back feature a few times, but I typically do not mind holding either. I often have a handful of cases that are queued up and ready to go once they pick up, and while I wait there’s always Instagram and TIGTA reports, but mostly Instagram. But taxpayers calling in on their own case can be really discouraged by a 30+ minute wait, and it is nice to have the option of saving your place in line without actually waiting on the line.
I understand the administrative burden this feature would cause though. It’s not a huge amount of extra work, but even a little extra work on such a large scale can be reason enough to just maintain the status quo. IRS customer service has really gone down the toilet in the last few years, so really status quo wouldn’t seem too awful right about now compared to any additional slippage in service.