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IRS: Hold, Please

November 15, 2010 · 23 comments

So I’ve been on hold with the IRS for more than 20 minutes now… And this is the Practitioner Hotline! I get it, they’re busy and it’s the end of the year. So I’m not really complaining. Well, sort of. A little.

If you’ve ever called the IRS, you’re well aware of the fact that you should be prepared to wait – and the hold times are getting longer. While you wait, you are subjected to the same hold music over and over and over. On the “regular” IRS line, the hold music is from the Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky and yes, that’s played year round, much to my assistant’s dismay. I haven’t been able to figure out the Practitioner Hotline music (anyone?) but it is much, much worse.

The hold music at the IRS has become something of a joke in the tax practitioner community but it appears that the IRS is actually thinking about whether it makes sense to change it. The IRS Advisory Council 2009 Public Report even made this recommendation:

Replace the hold music with wait-time information callers will need to improve the efficiency of the call, such as: redirecting callers to IRS.gov, information on offers in compromise, phishing warnings, paying taxes with credit cards or EFTPS, and the basics of financial information for an installment agreement.

Personally, I’m not such a fan of this idea. Important information should be made available to taxpayers on line or by pushing a button, not played randomly in a loop. But maybe that’s just me.

If I had to change the hold music, I’d just mix it up a little. I might even throw some fun “topic appropriate” tunes in, something like the Beatles’ “Tax Man” or Warren Zevon’s “Lawyers, Guns and Money.” What else do you suggest?

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joey Brannon November 15, 2010 at 4:03 pm

We definitely need the hold music. Our SOP is to put the practitioner hotline on speaker and go do something else. When the music stops there’s a mad dash to the phone before the agent gets done with their employee number. If they interrupt the hold music with “useful” information our office will be thrown into all kinds of chaos with the ensuing false alarms.

2 Kelly November 15, 2010 at 5:01 pm

Joey, same here!

3 David Weigel November 15, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Silence.

At the beginning of the call the system should state how many calls are ahead of yours or an estimated wait time. When the call becomes next in queue, the phone should ring as it is being directed to the next available agent. Two or three rings should be plenty of time to make the mad dash to the phone (though if you’re carrying the phone with you there shouldn’t be any dash).

Maybe every 5 minutes it could update the number in line or the estimated wait time. Otherwise, silence.

4 Kelly L Lynch November 15, 2010 at 9:07 pm

I haven’t tried this yet, but think I may one of these days: http://www.LucyPhone.com

It’s free and will stay on hold for you. I’m not an affiliate – but thought it was an idea who’s time has come.

5 Mary Kay Foss November 16, 2010 at 1:23 am

My California CPA Tax Committee complained to IRS about “Russian music” on hold and they have changed what you get on the IRS Practitioner Service number. The trick is knowing that they’re open until 8 p.m. every night and that you NEVER, NEVER call on a Monday. Last Friday I reached someone in Philadelphia on that line – it was 10:45 on the East Coast when the call was complete.

6 Nichole Parker November 16, 2010 at 5:12 am

I think it’s a great idea to tell the callers how many people are ahead of you.

I call the Italian tax authority fairly frequently and they tell you the number of callers ahead of you every 2 minutes or so. There’s also some background music (Italian classical – Verdi or something similar – that also repeats every 2 minutes) but you tend not to focus on it. You don’t feel like you’re in a black hole because you hear how quickly the number is going down and knowing that reduces your overall stress level, which would otherwise tend to increase as the wait goes on for what seems to be forever.

The only problem with the Italian system is that when they get up to a certain number of callers, you can’t get on line! You have to keep calling back until the line rings. I suppose there aren’t any perfect solutions.

7 Angela November 16, 2010 at 9:16 am

I’m with Joey! “Useful” information would be awful. At least with the music I can tune it out and get other work done while I’m waiting.

8 Adam November 16, 2010 at 9:46 am

I work at the IRS and the internal hold music is no better. Frankly, it’s awful.

As I write this, I have been on hold with computer support for over 22 minutes. Not much better inside either!

9 ReaderGirl November 16, 2010 at 12:08 pm

Tchaikovsky !? Beetles?! What about some good ol’ AMERICAN music!

Just kidding. How about Notorious B.I.G’s “Mo Money Mo Problems” and the IRS could volunteer to help with that “problem?”

10 TexasEd November 16, 2010 at 2:01 pm

“Taxman” by Stevie Ray Vaughn. The blues just goes with taxes!

11 Jon Paulson November 17, 2010 at 3:01 pm

The IRS could cycle through Billy Bragg’s album “Talking with the Tax Man about Poetry.”

12 Argie November 17, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Actually, there are 2 songs that rotated – at least before they changed the Practitioner line – and that I think are still on the regular hold line. Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers (I think, or the Dance of the Reeds) and the other was Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik (A Little Night Music).

In case anyone was REALLY curious.

13 Tom Zupanc November 18, 2010 at 4:58 pm

The inimitable soul god Marvin Gaye has two songs which refer to the added burdens of taxes on an already over-burdened man: “Trouble Man” (…only three things for sure – taxes death and trouble….”) and “Inner City Blues [Make Me Wanna Holler]” (“….I can’t pay my taxes….”)
Just a thought.

14 Garrett January 20, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Hi, I am wondering what the current hold music is? Its alot of piano. I like it alot and would like to get a copy to listen to in the car…if i only knew what it was.

15 kristy April 25, 2011 at 6:35 pm

We would love to know what the piano music is too.

16 Peter August 30, 2011 at 3:07 pm

I have been on hold on the practioners hotline for some time now and thought I’d google IRS on hold music and your site came up.
At least there is SOME advantage to the music – I found a good site!

17 Spike February 2, 2012 at 8:39 pm

The Practitioner Priority line sound a lot like David Benoit, he’s an easy listening jazz piano player.

18 James Dabbagian April 18, 2012 at 9:05 am

I can’t say anything about the practitioner hotline, but I know that happy-crappy piano elevator music has officially been burned in my mind after last year…this year it came soaring right back. You’d think they’d change it up once in a while , you know?

19 Claudia McCartney February 20, 2013 at 6:23 pm

I have been on hold waiting for an IRS agent to answer for over an HOUR! This is outrageous when WE are paying these people’s salaries! If they are going to cut services, then cutting them in the Customer Service Deparment of the IRS is NOT the place to start. It is still such an archaic organization that you cannot communicate with them by e-mail; leaving only the phone or snail mail. This is just plain abusive. We really need major tax reform and a better way to communicate with the IRS. They could at least have a recording saying “there are 3,000 callers ahead of you.” That’s about what I am estimating right now since I have already been on hold for an HOUR and still waiting.

20 Jacob August 1, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Any music they get, they would need the rights to. The TPH is getting worse and worse. How about hiring some competent people to represent the United States.

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