Why you should hang up on the IRS

It might sound crazy, but sometimes hanging up is the best option. When you call the vast cubicle farm known as the Automated Collection Systems or, if you're especially lucky, the Practitioner Priority Service line, you'll be given an estimate of how long it might be until you're spoken with. Or, as I like to think of it, you'll be informed how long you'll be listening to looped elevator music.


If the announcement tells you that your hold time will be greater than an hour and a half, let me do you a favor — hang up. You're going to be way better off trying again later and saving yourself time and sanity. 


Why? Just because you're willing to wait patiently for over two hours to speak to an IRS employee, it does not mean that the IRS will wait for you. There's this ironically-named function called a "courtesy disconnect" that you'll become familiar with if you stay on the line. A courtesy disconnect, quite simply put, is the IRS's way of telling you — after you've been on hold for two hours — that your call doesn't particularly matter to them.


Yep, that's courtesy for you!


There's no beeping to signify the call has been disconnected, there's no cordial "We're sorry, but we had to disconnect," and there's no more elevator music. The line just goes dead. For the next few minutes, you might be wondering if you are being transferred or if you were actually hung up on. I'll be honest, there is a certain degree of humiliation you'll feel when it happens.


In addition, one of our tax attorneys shared that if you are on hold for an hour and an agent picks up but transfers you to another agent — placing you on hold again — your previous hold time is carried forward and added to your new hold time. So while yes, you've only been on hold for 30 minutes in part two of this nightmare, the courtesy disconnect is still on its way!


Here's a quote from the Taxpayer Advocate's Fiscal Year 2016 report:


For the segment of taxpayers who required help from the IRS, the filing season was by far the worst in memory.

  • The IRS answered only 37 percent of taxpayer calls routed to customer service representatives overall, and the hold time for taxpayers who got through averaged 23 minutes. This level of service represents a sharp drop-off from the 2014 filing season, when the IRS answered 71 percent of its calls and hold times averaged about 14 minutes.
  • The IRS answered only 39 percent of calls from taxpayers seeking assistance from TAS on the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) Toll-Free hotline, and hold times averaged 19 minutes. TAS serves as the IRS’s “safety net” for taxpayers who are experiencing a financial or systemic hardship as a result of IRS action or inaction.
  • The IRS answered only 17 percent of calls from taxpayers who called after being notified that their tax returns had been blocked by the Taxpayer Protection Program (TPP) on suspicion of identity theft, and the hold times averaged about 28 minutes. In three consecutive weeks during the filing season, the IRS answered fewer than 10 percent of these calls.
  • The IRS answered only 45 percent of calls from practitioners who called the IRS on the Practitioner Priority Service line, and hold times averaged 45 minutes.
  • The number of “courtesy disconnects” received by taxpayers calling the IRS skyrocketed from about 544,000 in 2014 to about 8.8 million this filing season, an increase of more than 1,500 percent. The term “courtesy disconnect” is used when the IRS essentially hangs up on a taxpayer because its switchboard is overloaded and cannot handle additional calls.


When in doubt, remember the age-old adage: If at first you call the IRS and are given an hour-and-a-half wait time, hang up and then try calling again later.

If you have a tax issue that you need assistance with, contact us. We can help. Let us hold on the phone for you!

Here's an old IRSMedic classic that seems appropriate: