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In praise of the IRS

Internal Revenue ServiceNow is the time of year that everyone loves to complain about taxes and the Internal Revenue Service. I just finished doing my taxes for the first time (previously I’ve had an account handle it), and I must say it was a fairly pleasant experience.

In addition to my Federal taxes, I had to file returns in two states. I also had to report a fair amount of independent contractor and sole proprietor income as well as some expenses. So the process was a bit more complicated than the typical 1040-EZ.

To handle the task I used Turbo Tax, which was fairly effective. I only encountered problems when it found a few errors but offered no insight as to how to decipher the tax jargon in question. So it is unclear if those problems got fixed. But all in all, it was solid software. The user interface was great and they give you on the spot feedback as to how new information impacts your tax return. I was happy to give them some money for the service.

But the real pleasure in the whole tax process came when I had to call the IRS. Apparently there is some pin number you’re supposed to save every year if you want to file your taxes electronically. Well, being an American, there is no way I am ever going to save a scrap of paper for a year (this isn’t the Soviet Union, we don’t carry around our “papers”). The only most Americans keep track of their drivers licences is because bars often ask for them. So the long and short of this story is that I found my self calling the IRS for help.

There was no wait time, no annoying music. They didn’t play ads for themselves like Comcast does. The fellow I spoke to was quick, efficient and helpful. He solved my problem in under two minutes. Calling the the IRS on April 14th was the best telephone customer service experience I have ever had.*

For two hours of paperwork and a five minute phone call, I’ll be getting about $400 back. Because of withholding, taxes don’t only seem fair, they seem like a genuine windfall! Thanks Milton Freedman.

*The second best was when I had to call the Economist about a subscription issue. But that was only delightful because of how shockingly unprofessional their customer support was and because the fellow I spoke with referred to his colleagues at the Economist as “Comrade.”

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