Monday, June 30, 2014
If there's a gift horse you should look in the mouth, it's one coming from a
"service" premised on the idea that it's okay to confiscate your money and call
the process voluntary. That's what I did Saturday when I received an
unexpected refund check from the IRS. Despite recent
revelations about the way the IRS handles its own email records, I was
still amazed at what I learned.
Here's a sample:
- One tax preparer said that it was common for her clients to receive refunds due to mistakes by the IRS. About five percent of her clients got unexpected refunds last year, and, "Eighty percent of the time, the checks were issued erroneously..."
- Anyone who cashes such a check will be expected to repay it -- with penalties and interest. According to MSN Money, "The IRS shows no mercy just because it sent the money in the first place."
- The agency warns against cashing such checks until you have received an explanation, but can take up to a year to send one, if it ever does. Consumer's Digest advises calling the agency and, if still in doubt, voiding the check and sending it back with an explanatory letter.
- Consumer's Digest notes that "back-and-forth arguments over stiff penalties can get nasty, even if IRS made the error." A tax attorney interviewed for the article noted that only once in his sixteen years of practice had he ever seen a penalty waived.
- Many of the errors pertain to IRS mistakes related to estimated tax payments -- and are followed by notifications of penalties for the "missed" payments.
The last article I cited puts it well: ""[T]he IRS and other agencies make mistakes on a level that would put any of us out of business." Great: So on top of having my money taken, and wasting time preparing taxes, I have to screw around tracking down someone else's mistake -- or else.
Any passer-by who feels the inclination to call me a something like a "whiner", or say something to the effect that this is all "part of being an adult" or some other such nonsense should check his premises. Being robbed and harassed on a regular basis is not the way things ought or have to be. I am astounded that so many people tolerate the existence of a band of legalized thieves who can plead incompetence while also brandishing the threat of financial hardship or jail time.