I used taxactonline.com to do my taxes again this year.

The IRS return was accepted and my refund was sent to me without a hiccup.

I wasn't so lucky with my State return.

The Division of Taxation sent me a Statement of Account with their "corrections."

First of all, I noticed they reduced my refund. I really didn't care about the $150 or so that they were deciding to keep for themselves. Then I thought my taxable income looked too high.

I saw my "Exemptions" only totaled $2,000 (2 x $1000). That looked wrong. How could that be? I have 4 children, so there should be at least 4 right there. So then I looked at the top of the page and saw the number next to children was "0". Well, that's just flat-out incorrect.

Ok, so maybe somehow I did it wrong. I pulled my tax return online, and the hardcopy from my paper files. Nope. 4 kids. All listed, with birth dates and social security numbers. All still qualify because they are all under 13 and none have income.

So I decided to call the call center and find out what happened. The first time, I got a recording telling me to call back between 8:30 AM and 4 PM. A couple of days later, I came home early from work and called around 3PM. I got a recording telling me that all agents were busy and I should call back some other day, preferably before 10 AM, and then got disconnected.

A couple of days later, I was home in the morning, and decided to call. I followed a bunch of prompts and finally ended up in a call queue. I was the tenth caller in line, it said. If I choose to wait, someone will take my call. Of course I'm going to wait, this could be my only chance to talk to someone. After 15 or 20 minutes of listening to the same song while on hold, a live person picked up.

I explained that I was looking at a statement of account, which was sent to me with a reduced refund. I told her that the problem with this statement is that someone has adjusted my number of children from "4" to "0." I asked, "Can you tell me why that was done?"

She proceeded to take a bunch of information from me, in-between putting me on hold a few more times, and finally came back with the answer.

"Someone made an error either entering your data or scanning it in, and I see that in fact, you should have 4 children, so the original refund amount that you sent in was correct. I have to process some paperwork and you will receive the balance of your refund in a couple of weeks."

At this point, I told the rep (and of course these conversations are recorded) that I wasn't so much after the refund, but I didn't want to let the "0" children error stand, lest there be some confusion next year about why I suddenly have 4 children, when last year I had none. She told me that I shouldn't worry about that, that is the mistake they are fixing and there should be no problems with next year's return. I thanked her and hung up.

That took over 30 minutes to accomplish.

Here's a tip: I spent that 30 minutes reading at my desk, with the documents I needed to reference by my side as well. I did this so that I could use my time constructively, as well as stay awake while that mind-numbing music played in my ear!

The take-away from my story is this: if "they" make a mistake "correcting" your return, the first thing you need to do is stop feeling angry about it. You have every right to be angry about it -- after all, "they" are "stealing" your money! But calling them in a rage probably won't get you anywhere.

I was angry too. But after I thought about it, I felt that the best way to get to the root of the problem was to point out the exact location of the error (in my case, "0" children when the correct number is "4"). Then ask if they can tell me why that was changed. That's it.

This way, you don't accuse the person taking your call of any wrongdoing. He or she is almost definitely not the person who screwed up.

Also, you leave the door open for the possibility that you are actually the one who made a mistake somewhere, and they'll be quite glad to point that out for you.

But if you simply ask them to explain why the change was made, you put the ball in their court. They either have to come up with the reason and explain it to you, or discover that someone made a mistake processing your return. 

In either case, using this approach will help you get the problem corrected without hurting anyone's feelings.