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Private tax preparers paying extra to skip long IRS phone times

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Private tax preparers are using robocall systems to dial the IRS and hold the phone lines for what could be several hours.

These companies then charge customers to jump on the line and replace the robocall when the wait is nearly over.

The charge to customers can be anywhere from $300 to $1,000.

Shayna Shields says she is still waiting on $600 owed to her by the IRS from last year’s tax returns. With customers jumping the line to get to the IRS, it becomes hard for Shields and other taxpayers to get help with tax issues.

“That’s completely unfair,” Shields said. “For someone who isn’t in a situation financially to do that…we, you know, are penalized for that.”

In January, I-Team 8 learned that in 2021, only 11% of the 282 million calls to the IRS were answered. It’s pushed taxpayers like Shields over the edge after spending months trying to get answers.

“I’m concerned, you know?” Shields said. “Is it going to be the same situation this time as it as it was last year?”

Some companies, like EnQ, claim they can get a client like Shields to an IRS agent with up to 90% less hold time, at a cost of hundreds of dollars.

U.S. Sen. Todd Young, a Republican from Indiana, recently wrote letter to the IRS questioning the practice, saying in part: “Paying to receive preferential access to the IRS should not be permitted.”

Young is calling on the IRS to “dramatically improve the quality of service.”

There are some resources available for people in central Indiana who need help dealing with tax issues and the IRS.

Maggie Worrell, senior manager of basic needs with the United Way of Central Indiana, points to the Indy Free Tax Prep program as a way to ease some frustrations taxpayers may be having.

The program is available to those who make less than $66,000 in household income. The people who work with the clients are IRS-certified volunteers, which means they understand the tax system, says Worrell.

“I’m kind of suggesting our program as a backdoor so that they don’t have to be on the phone, if they’re trying to do their taxes themselves,” Worrell said. “It can be very complicated.”

Worrell also suggests checking out for tax prep help.

“They can get assistance as they’re working through their taxes,” Worrell said. “So, it’s kind of a way of being able to get your questions answered without having to sit on that phone line with the IRS.”