Testing My Theory

Apparently it wasn’t only me who thought the new Practitioner Priority Service (PPS) guidelines were ambiguous.  I don’t think the PPS customer service reps understand them either.  The best I could tell, I thought that they would be checking qualifications more closely, maybe even refusing to speak with anybody lacking a duly executed power of attorney.

It wasn’t long before I was able to test my theory.  Here’s how my first post-Jan. 6th PPS call went:

IRS: “How can I help you today, Mr. Wetenkamp?”

ME: “It’s my first call on this case; can you just give me an account overview such as balances due, missing returns, collection status, etc.?”

IRS: “Oh no, we can’t help you with that sort of thing anymore.  As of January 6, 2014 we are only allowed to assist you with active tax issues.”


IRS: “Uh, . . . well, . . . yes.”

When the IRS makes informal procedure adjustments it is usually impossible to tell how they will materialize at the individual call centers.  For one thing, call center managers do not always interpret internal memoranda uniformly, so it is common to have slight variations from one city to the next.  But even if all IRS managers agreed, something inevitably gets lost between the team meeting where the memo is thoroughly explained and the cubicles of IRS rank and file.  You’ve probably heard anecdotally that the IRS doesn’t follow its own rules.  Well, this is precisely where it comes from and it happens every single day.


Changes Announced for PPS Phone Line

Now I know why the hold times are so long when I call the IRS.

Some people think tax attorneys have a special dedicated phone line at the IRS and we can simply pick up and talk to whomever we want whenever we please.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Yes, we do have a special practitioner phone line, but during peak call times I don’t think it makes much of a difference, at least not lately.  The IRS Practitioner Priority Service (PPS) phone line has, in my opinion, never been the same since the government shutdown in October 2013.

The IRS recently announced some changes to PPS.  The IRS says that effective January 6, 2014, they will only be able to help tax professionals with tax questions through the PPS phone lines.  You have to be kidding me!  Isn’t this the whole point?!  What this means to me is that I have consistently been waiting on hold for an hour each time I call because the IRS Practitioner Priority Service number phone reps have been taking calls from non-practitioners with irrelevant questions!  This is beyond annoying.

This is all a little tongue-in-cheek because I think what the IRS really means is that PPS reps are going to be checking to see if the practitioner has a valid Power of Attorney on file for the account they want to discuss before answering long-winded questions that have nothing to do with specific taxpayer issues.

Also, the service is no longer going to honor live telephone transcript requests.  This makes sense because there are so many other ways to obtain transcripts such as through the automated phone service, irs.gov website, and by mail.  There is no sense in clogging up the practitioner phone lines with unnecessary requests.  I wonder if the hold times will get any shorter after January 6th.  One can only hope.