Proof That IRS Agents Are Human

The good folks at the IRS might be as human as the rest of us.

Need evidence?

Check out this IRS agent's response to a couple of very tired parents from San Francisco:

We have reviewed your correspondence regarding the penalties that were charged based on your explanation that the 'adult brain turns to jello those first few months raising a baby', we have decided to remove all penalty charges. A total of $2,522.00 in penalty charges has been removed.

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This letter was originally posted on Erica Firment's Facebook wall on January 31, 2012. Erica has since provided additional background on Facebook:

What proceeded their response was my a very formal letter explaining the mistake and asking to forgive the penalties. However formal the rest of the letter was, I added an asterisk and this bit at the bottom:

"* I am not above groveling and mentioning our only child was six months old when we made our extension mistake. If you have children, you understand the adult brain turns to jello those first few months raising a baby." (Source: ThatGuyChuck via Reddit)

Erica, the founder of the popular librarian blog Librarian Avengers, was very pleased with the outcome. 

"The IRS really surprised us with great customer service," said Erica on Twitter. "A human even picked up the phone immediately!"

"Our IRS letter just hit the top of Reddit. I think people are hungry for a human voice from government institutions."

Many people on Reddit are chiming in with their own positive experiences with the IRS. One Redditor claiming to be a taxpayer advocate from the IRS pointed out that it never hurts to challenge a tax penalty:

I actually work for the Taxpayer Advocate's Office, (which is part of the IRS) and I have to say that this is pretty awesome!! We get cases for all kinds of hardship reasons, and we fight for all taxpayer's, not just the ones who ask for our assistance. It makes me glad to see other employee's are doing what they can as well! I will share this info with the other Advocate's in my office, as I know they will get a kick out of this too.

Also a tidbit for penalties-you can always ask for them to be removed. The worst they will say is no. The first time you get penalties, you can get them removed just because you have a good history and you asked. And if you ever need Taxpayer Advocate's assistance, call 877-ASKTAS1, or look at our website for your Local Taxpayer Advocate Office and maybe see some of the services we provide or check out our annual report to congress. (Emphasis added. Source: Mostlywrong via Reddit.)

Personally I've had pretty good experiences dealing with the IRS. When we first started Wise Bread, I had a lot of tax questions regarding the tax implications of setting up various legal entities. I called the toll-free hotlines at IRS and their representatives were extremely knowledgeable and courteous. 

If you have general questions, here's a list of IRS numbers you can call (following info provided by IRS website):

Telephone Assistance
When calling, you may ask questions to help you prepare your tax return, or ask about a notice you have received. Please be aware that when you conclude your discussion, our system will not permit you to return to your original responder.

Telephone Assistance for Individuals:
Toll-Free, 1-800-829-1040
Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. your local time (Alaska & Hawaii follow Pacific Time).

Telephone Assistance for Businesses:
Toll-Free, 1-800-829-4933

Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. your local time (Alaska & Hawaii follow Pacific Time).

Telephone Assistance for Exempt Organizations, Retirement Plan Administrators, and Government Entities:
Toll-Free, 1-877-829-5500

Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday,  8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Local Time

Telephone Assistance for people with hearing impairments:
Toll-Free 1-800-829-4059 (TDD)
Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. your local time (Alaska & Hawaii follow Pacific Time).
For further information, see Tax Topic 102.

Telephone Assistance for Individuals who believe they may be a victim of Identity Theft: No Tax Administration Impact - Did not receive a notice from the IRS. Toll-Free 1-800-908-4490 (Automated and live assistance)
Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday, 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. your local time (Alaska & Hawaii follow Pacific Time). For additional information, refer to our Identity Theft and Your Tax Records page.

Telephone Assistance for people who live outside the United States
Hours of availability vary by location. Please see our International Services page.

Face-to-Face Assistance
In certain areas, IRS also has local offices you may visit to receive assistance

What kind of experiences have you had with the IRS? Please share them in the comments!

Thank you to Redditor Missstar for helping with this story.

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Guest's picture

This great! I work for a state contractor in a call center for a health program and we do try to help our clients with all we can. Unfortunately with the help from this program there is red tape we can't cross sometimes and people think we don't want to help. It's great to see that when something can be done to help someone, people working at these agencies are doing it.

Guest's picture

I can't complain too much, other than the fact that their automated systems seem to find "errors" that aren't errors every year now, requiring many months of very slow back and forth letters/faxes to sort out (4 out of 4, they were wrong and I owed nothing).