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Team TaleSpin Keeps Members from Going into Tailspin

June 01, 2013 | Written by: Ka-Ryn Escovedo and the Audit Coordinators of Team TaleSpin
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Defending our Members during a tax audit requires a lot of expertise and knowledge, that much is obvious. But there are also additional, more subtle skills required to make sure that our Members are fully taken care of, from the moment they receive their first notice all the way to the conclusion of their case. There are several moving parts during this process, including the way we communicate with our Members and the IRS, and the way we navigate all the requirements, deadlines, and issues that come with dealing with audits and tax agencies.

Our Audit Coordinators make sure every Member has the best support possible during a stressful and uncertain time, juggling these moving parts to make sure the Member understands their obligations and follows the audit process correctly. The stories below come from “Team TaleSpin” and are just a few examples of the different ways our Audit Coordinators provide support to our Members, from battling technological issues to dealing with IRS deadlines, they are constantly going the extra mile to make sure things get done.

One of the biggest promises we make is to handle all contact with the IRS so our Members don’t have to. Audit Coordinator Christopher Lee shares how we live up to that promise:

I received a call from a panicked Member who explained that an IRS Revenue Agent was coming to his house the next day and he didn’t know what to do. The Member was extremely stressed about his situation, as he had not received the first notice and the Agent had scheduled the appointment himself. The Member was completely caught off guard and had even forgotten that he owned an Audit Defense Membership. I spoke with the Member for about an hour to calm him down and let him know how to proceed with cancelling the appointment. I also explained his rights and that because he did not receive the first notice, the IRS needed to issue a new notice. I explained how to get a copy of the notice, and I even spoke with the Agent myself to explain that the Member had representation and that the Agent needed to issue a new notice. The appointment was canceled, and now the case is ongoing.

I was very pleased that I could help relieve this Member’s anxiety and resolve the situation so that we could move forward. Many times Members do not understand their rights and feel intimidated by the IRS and it is very rewarding to be able to help them navigate a scary and complicated situation.

Audit Coordinator Sondra Hopkins describes how a technical glitch can interfere with the progress of a case and the importance of persistence:

We have encountered situations in which the notice a Member received predates the membership order date we have in our system. Through investigating the situation, we soon discovered that this was happening due to a technical glitch that was occurring when a membership was purchased with funds from a Member’s tax refund.

Our policy is clear that a valid membership must be purchased before receiving an audit notice, so this issue definitely created concerns when a Member would call in to report their notice and the system would show that they had purchased it after the notice date. Because of this, we had to be very clear with the Members and request proof that the membership was valid. In one instance, I had to ask a Member several times to send me proof of membership, because it was not showing up correctly. Finally, I was able to check the e-file postmark to learn that the purchase did in fact predate the notice. I was pleased that we had been able to determine the correct purchase date. With this information, we were able to cover the notice and move the case along.

Any Member who has needed our help knows that in an audit, documents are everything. We rely on our Member’s records and documents to build the case and respond to tax agencies. Because of security regulations, we have guidelines in place for our Members that allow them to send their documents to us securely and conveniently. But of course, sometimes technological issues get in the way. Audit Coordinators Shawana Smith and Cassandra Smith share how technology can sometimes hamper progress, but flexibility can save the day:

Shawana: I was recently assisting a Member and noticed she had not sent in her documents. She said it was because our system was not working for her. When this happens, the first question we ask is what operating system and browser are they using. We try to solve the issue as quickly as possible so that we can move the case forward. This particular Member was using a Mac, so I explained that our system is compatible with her computer, and what her options were to send in her documents.

We always give our Members the option to fax in their documents in instances where that may be easier for them. The Member was very grateful that I was able to provide her with a resolution and she was able to successfully send in her documents.

Cassandra: Sometimes, in addition to helping Members with their audits, we also end up providing technical support! I had a Member who was having a very difficult time sending in his documents. He had made several attempts to fax them and each time was unsuccessful. I tried to assist him over the phone as best I could, and in the end we decided his best option was to mail in his documents.

We strive to provide our Members as much flexibility as possible, and in this situation his best option was to mail us everything. His case continued to move along and he was relieved to have a solution.

Audit Coordinator Mel Williams shares how sometimes, “Coordinator” can turn into “Counselor”:

While we may handle thousands of cases per year, every case and every Member is different. As an AC, you never know when you pick up that phone to make your initial call what the situation is or how involved the case will be. Members are often understandably upset, and who can blame them: they just received a letter from the IRS and they are completely scared, worried and freaked out. Often they are in panic mode, expecting the worst scenario possible. It’s our job to help them through the process and hopefully ease their anxiety by lifting at least some of the burden off their shoulders.

I was recently assigned to a Member who had received a field audit, so I knew he would probably be anxious. When I called to introduce myself, it was evident right away that he was very worried about his response date, more than anything else. I assured him that we were going to take care of him, and let him know that I had already contacted the IRS Agent on his behalf. The Member thanked me for my help and for making that call for him. I also explained what we needed from him going forward. The Member stated that he had been filing his taxes for “a hundred” years and had never had a notice in his life. He then said that because I had taken the time to help him, he thought his audit defense membership was the best money he had ever spent. I assured him that he was in good hands. It is always a nice feeling knowing you helped a Member ─ who was a little freaked out at first ─ to feel more at ease.

Audit Coordinator Jeremy Ingram demonstrates just one way we go above and beyond when it comes to helping our Members:

I received a call from a gentleman who was in a bit of a panic. He said he had just received a notice from the IRS; however, he would be boarding a flight out of the country the very next day and it would be at least three weeks before he returned. Obviously, the primary concern was his upcoming response date listed on the notice. Typically, we are able to request an extension, but the Member informed me that he had already done this and was told that he had to respond by the date on the notice.

We pride ourselves in being able to assign our representatives very quickly after a Member receives a notice, but in this situation getting a valid Power of Attorney before the Member left the country seemed nearly impossible ─ even we couldn’t move that fast. However, I promised him that I would do my best to make it happen.

Immediately, I went to work trying to find a way to help the Member and make sure we were able to start the process of responding to the IRS by the deadline. I knew that I would need to request that a specific rep be assigned to this case ─ someone who would be available to quickly review his case and contact him as soon as possible. The Member’s responsiveness and our team’s flexibility made it possible for us to set the process in motion so that the Member could leave the country knowing his case was being handled promptly and getting the attention it required. The level of customer service and support that we provide at never fails to amaze me.

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