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Things we love to hate: Tax forms, bureaucracy, and April fools page 2
Tax time is special, especially for the 1 percent who love to do their taxes

RICHARD AMRHINE
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Date published: 4/16/2006

By RICHARD AMRHINE

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In the later years of her life, my mom astutely arranged to have her finances, including her taxes, handled by professionals. It was part of her effort to prevent her kids from being burdened by such things.

Nevertheless, someone needed to be the family financial liaison, and that fell to me. Thanks to the financial professionals, it was not a big deal--until the day the fat letter from the IRS arrived. It enumerated various issues with my mother's tax return from a few years earlier, when the transition to financial professionals was taking place.

The letter said she owed $39,000. It provided a telephone number to call to set up a convenient installment plan, along with various threats should we choose an alternate course of action, such as ignoring the whole thing.

I knew there was no possible way my mom could owe the IRS $39,000. But I was reminded that it can be a bad idea to open the mail between the time I arrive home from work and the time I sit down to eat dinner. Such letters will take away your appetite.

Over the next several months, with the help of her tax professional and the cooperation of the IRS, we discovered that a missing Form 1099 or two had snowballed into this huge discrepancy due to the complexity of the government's income tax formulas.

It turned out she owed a few hundred bucks in taxes and penalties, which we paid.

Then we got a refund for part of that with a letter from the IRS saying it had recalculated and determined that less was owed. Strange, but true.

Then, a few months later--and I am not making this up--I received another fat letter from the IRS saying my mother owed $39,000 in back taxes and penalties. For the same year, enumerating the same old issues, and showing the same IRS contact person.

Luckily, my mom's tax guy was able to straighten that out with a phone call. We found out that the original problem had been cleared up in all of the IRS's computers--except the one that sends out the fat letters.


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