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Sunday, October 16, 2011

On the fifteenth of May, in the jungle of Nool...

Earlier this year we were negotiating with the I.R.S. I was attempting to make payment arrangements for our 2009 tax bill. I hadn't done this before and, to give the devil his due, the I.R.S. was being very accommodating, I venture to say even nice about it. Didn't want us to overextend ourselves, offering to make our payments VERY small, much smaller than I expected.

We hit an unknown snag which resulted in the I.R.S. sending a certified letter saying we had to contact them in person. This is never good news. So the hubster took a deep breath, girded his loins and hied himself down to the closest office of the Internal Revenue Service which, btw, does not make appointments for summons like this.

He got there right as the office was re-opening after lunch. He stood in line outside the building for 20 minutes while everyone snaked through the metal detectors and emptied their pockets and had their bags x-rayed and then made his way to the office and got in line at the window. He was number 52.

A breathtaking two and a half hours later he reached the window to be told that we could not make a payment arrangement because we hadn't filed our 2004 taxes. Hmmmmmm. This seemed odd.  In fact, when I called him I said "Gee, that sounds odd...." Okay, I said "Like HELL we didn't!" and, luckily, was able to find the tax file. I was fearful it was in a box in storage, so much of our stuff was thrown in boxes and locked behind the orange door of the local "You have way too much crap for any one person to keep, pay US and we'll let you use our garage" facility where you will have convenient access to it any time between the hours of 6am and 9pm, providing you remember to pay your bill because if you don't you will have liens up your ass.

You know those commercials? Where the happy people drop by storage four times a week, it's clean and organized and that's where you have your wedding dress fit? Yeah, that place. Well, it's been three years, I HAVE managed to extricate the Christmas stuff from it, most of my Desert Rose dishware came out broken and I'm still looking for my kitchen scale. Trust me, no one drops by their organized, brightly lit storage garage, chats with their neighbors and wheels the mountain bikes out for a day of fun.

It took a few minutes to find the right file, while they were in the apartment they weren't in any particular order. I found the 2005 taxes and saw I had declared our 2004 tax refund from the state so I KNEW I filed taxes.   The I.R.S. had obligingly provided the hubster with a printout of all our reported income for that year so we could reconstruct the taxes if necessary. Well, up popped the 2004 returns. The STATE returns. There they were, along with the copies of the W2s and some assorted 1099s. There was NO copy of the Federal return.

Well, shit. I had NO clue why the state was filed and the feds weren't. We had, apparently, filed an extension. Okay, works for me. After spending several days trying to figure out just what had happened I decided the federal return was lost in the mail or something, thought "Oh, what the hell..." and took what I had, and the printout from the I.R.S., and started reconstructing.

Now, to be honest, it was kind of cool to have the list from the I.R.S. because if there was some money we had made and I forgot about, well, the I.R.S. didn't know about it either. And we had a home back then, so there was mortgage interest and property taxes and insurance to deduct. And, lo and behold, there, on the bottom line...a REFUND! A refund that would have taken care of our outstanding tax bill and put some money in our pockets for things like groceries, gas, haircuts and some new jeans.

Because the return was so old I decided to find a licensed tax preparer...just in case? We made an appointment, went over everything and waited. She called just a few days later, everything was ready and yep, there was a refund, pretty much the same one I had come up with. We went in, signed, forked over $275 and left with the taxes and an addressed envelope in our hand. Which was when I started wondering. The I.R.S. had given us a specific address to send the taxes to, because of their age and the payment plan hinging on them. We gave the address to the tax preparer. She didn't use it. Oh well. Then I glanced over the taxes. The $700 the hubster had won in a contest was sitting there as self employment income and had generated a penalty because we hadn't filed as a company. I called and took them back whereupon she explained that, in tax preparer school, they were taught that any money won was self employment income.

This struck me odd -- as there's a freaking LINE on the tax form to declare money you WIN. She told us her boss said that, because of the amount of the winnings we could declare is as additional income. This woman was beginning to concern me. She redid the taxes and I picked them up. She said she felt bad and would offer us a $50 discount on this year's taxes because of the error. I remained unimpressed yet friendly and I think we both knew I wouldn't be back. I double-checked my returns once again. She had my name wrong. I got out the Liquid Paper.

Having waiting patiently for word from the I.R.S. we investigated. Yep, they had our returns, thank you very much and let's put you on a payment  plan. Um, why? The refund MORE than covers the taxes for 2009. "Your return is over three years old. We don't GIVE refunds." After going around and around and getting nowhere we said "Okay, well, what about using that money for the taxes we owe for last year?"

"Nope. You owe those too."

 EXCUSE ME? I PAID in too much money and you're just KEEPING IT?


Well, okay, why did you keep accepting our returns for the past SEVEN years and never, ever, not even ONCE did you sent us a letter saying "We haven't received your tax returns for 2004"?

"That's not our responsibility."

Have you ever heard of someone not filing their Income Taxes and the I.R.S. not bothering to come after them  for it? Me either.

Want to know why I had a refund in 2004 and a bill for almost two grand for both '09 and '10? Because the hubster's company folded and he's been grabbing whatever freelance he could and collecting his unemployment until it ran out. The Feds place a hefty tax on UNemployment. I make less than $30K annual and the taxes that are being withheld, at the highest rate possible mind you, from my paycheck still fall almost TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS A YEAR SHORT.

That's two thousand dollars more than Exxon-Mobil paid in taxes. 

That's two thousand dollars more than at least 1400 MILLIONAIRES paid.

But there, on a clover named Wall Street, stand the Whos. Rather than remain still while we're all dropped into a vat of boiling beezelnut oil they came together and started chanting, in small unheard voices "We are here!" And soon they were gathering everywhere, in Los Angeles, in Tokyo, in Rome (yeah, that one turned into the end of a soccer match though), in Tai Pai, in London, in Paris, in Toronto...all standing politely, and all yelling as loud as they can "We are HERE!"

And, after three years of being "alone in the universe", after three years of being abused and pushed around and drained of every drop of blood I have and some I don't, I find myself, finally, with a voice. And I want to go to the highest point I can find anywhere and shout to the world, in a voice louder than any ever heard in history: "YOPP!"

A person IS a person, no matter how small. WE are the 99%. And we're too big to fail.

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