A few months ago Kelly Services contacted me about what is called an IRS lockbox job for a few months. I have been working at the lockbox for a week now.
I had never before heard of the IRS lockboxes, but they must have been a part of the income tax payments for years. And hundreds of people work on the project each spring.
The name of the entity and the jobs it entails have strange names. When Kelly contacted me about participating, there was no explanation as to what the positions require. So here are some definitions if any of you are interested in doing this in the future.
IRS lockbox: Sound like a safe, doesn't it? No, the lockbox is a building. The IRS rents warehouse space owned by banks in various cities and sets up its equipment and furniture for people to work--tables and chairs and office supplies plus its computers and sorting machines.
Data entry: This is the only job title that you will recognize. I applied for this position first. I always thought of myself as a fast and accurate typist but my test scores weren't good enough to be eligible for this. People fill in blanks on the screen with data related to a person's IRS refund or payment.
Falcon: Sounds like someone interested in falconry! Or maybe a football player! A falcon works at a sorting machine which makes a cut in the envelope so that the manual extractor doesn't have to worry about opening the mail. I think the name comes from the claw that slices open the envelope.
Manual extractor: This is my job. It sounds like I am pulling teeth! After the envelopes have been cut open, I remove the mail and sort it. The office I am working at has only payment returns, not refunds. I sort the paperwork by the amount of what the check is written for.
Candling: To me this is someone who makes candles! Or it's that disgusting theory that you can hold a lit candle by your ear to make your earwax melt so you can remove it. This job actually entails running the opened and theoretically empty envelopes over a light machine to make sure there is nothing else in there (such as a missed payment check).
I am at the Cincinnati office, and the majority of the mail is coming from west of Colorado. I know that people in Cincinnati had to send their forms to Fresno, CA. I think this is done on purpose so that you won't happen to see your neighbors' tax returns.
Here are some items that were unusual that I've noticed after three weeks of working at the lockbox.
These are all returns with payments, and they are all individuals or small businesses. I would say that about 80 percent of the people whose envelopes I have opened have had Hispanic names. I had expected to see these names from the Southwest, but not as many from other states.
The largest check I opened was for $6 million, the smallest for 6 cents. No, I don't know why! I also have seen two other million-plus checks. All three large checks were from individuals, and I am assuming they won the lottery, because I figured that a person who was already wealthy, or operated a small business, would have had an accountant help with the finances so not so much would be owed the IRS.
One return I opened had a postmark of North Pole, Alaska. No, it wasn't from Santa Claus! I joked that I thought maybe one of his elves was paying taxes!
Sadly, I have seen several returns with additional paperwork stating that the taxpayer's identity had been stolen, and that a return had already been filed in his or her name.
One return from Nevada included not employers' W-2s, but a bunch of winning receipts from casinos. I got the impression that the taxpayer's way of making a living was from gambling, not a regular day job. Also, many people send in at least three W-2s, so it looks like a lot of people have had several jobs, although I don't know if they were spread out over the course of the year or if someone was moonlighting with extra work.
If I notice other unusual details over the course of the next few weeks, I will provide another update.
Some new or additional details:
On Monday, I opened a payment from Canada and on Tuesday an envelope with payment from Israel. Last week I opened an envelope where the taxpayer had sent cash--almost $200! I've also learned, although I've not seen this yet, that some people, if they have a small amount owed, will actually send postage stamps instead of money. I know that used to be done up through the 1950s but I haven't heard of anyone doing this for decades.
There is a new question on the 2020 1040 form--Did you buy any digital currency in 2020?--with boxes for yes and no. Out of the thousands of forms from all over the United States from all income levels that I've opened, I've not yet seen one checkmarked "yes." Considering the amount of publicity I've read in the past year about bitcoin, it must have just a few buyers.
Some people try to cram as many sheets of paper--more than 20 trifolded pages--into a regular No. 10 business envelope. Others put one flat envelope with only a check and payment voucher into an 8 1/2 by 11 envelope or an even larger one, sometimes padded, which are expensive, inside. The largest amount of forms I've received was one stack of paper that was 2 inches high! I joked that I'd seen Bibles that were smaller than that!
These are my final comments on the IRS lockbox job. The work ended two weeks ago. I am hoping to get called back in September.
For one week I worked in a different department called "Checks." I HATED IT! Asked to be put back to extractions. Don't ask me what was done in checks because I never did figure it out.
The only other non-US countries envelopes that I opened were Portugal and Singapore (Hong Kong). I opened one form that didn't have cash or a check but rather one forever stamp worth 55 cents. I don't understand the point of that!
I would love to go into their instructors' manuals and cheat sheets and completely rearrange them and add information. What was in the books and on the sheets were, in my opinion, organized completely wrong and omitted many details of what to look for. Training had a ton of information on being able to identify fake and forged checks and the extreme necessity of not discussing anything or taking anything in or out, but nothing about the types of forms the office didn't and did accept and how they should be stapled together!