Customer Service of Taxes – Part 1 of 2

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I dedicated the latter part of today to finishing and paying my taxes. Like all Americans (except Leona Helmsey), I pay taxes.

Even though my taxes aren’t that complicated, the entire process is annoying and confusing. I am usually pretty good with government forms and bureaucracies, but the tax system tends to overwhelm me because of both its depth and breadth. My taxes are different than most people’s because as a consultant, I am paid almost entirely as an independent contractor (1099’s). However, this post isn’t about taxes – it is about the customer service associated with them. (If you want to read a blog about taxes, check out Taxgirl by my friend Kelly Erb.)

I decided not to go with H&R Block or one of those firms because my taxes are actually quite simple – they just involve going through my folder of 1099’s and entering in the numbers and some related information. With that in mind, I did head over to TurboTax. I had seen the commercials, was familiar with the Intuit brand, and had used their more “serious” applications for other things in the past. Registration was fine and the online software was actually pretty nice. They made a point of explaining things in a lot of detail and providing enough help and guidance to make it relatively simple.

What is nice about TurboTax (and most of the products that compete with it) is I didn’t have to pay anything upfront and was able to go at my own pace. This makes sense because most people don’t have the time or patience to do it all at one sitting and quite often, don’t have all the information they need to finish it in one sitting. Not paying upfront is fine because it doesn’t cost Intuit much for me to get started and the more time I invest in using their software, the more likely I am just to pay the money to use the software (you pay before you file). It is definitely a smart business practice that I am sure helps their bottom line.

Thinking my taxes might be even simpler than I thought, I foolishly decided to call the IRS. I waited on hold for about 15 minutes while I worked on a client presentation. I was connected to a lady who was very professional (she said her first and last name and her ID number) and asked me a few questions. She then explained that I had to be transferred to another department. 30 minutes later (I was making progress on the said presentation) and I was talking to another lady. Since my income for one form was reported in box 7, I had to be transfered to the business department. Another 30 minutes (I was finished with the presentation at this point) and I spoke to a nice guy who answered some questions. He was difficult to understand, but did help point me in the right direction. I went back to TurboTax, made a few changes based on what the IRS representative told me, and that was it.

I was paid and filed. Or so I thought. The rest of my tax experience will be posted tomorrow.

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