IRS Runaround

It being tax season, I feel I must relate a story that I have experience more than once in regards to the Infernal Revenue Service.

After selling our business 18 months ago our tax situation changed, leaving us with some tax liabilities. The sum owed wasn't overly large and we worked out a payment plan with the government to allow us to pay it off over a period rather than paying it in one lump sum. Any tax over-payments we made during the following tax year(s) would be applied to the balance we owed. So far so good.

Over the past few days both Deb and I have been trying to find out the balance of what we still owe and up to this point we've had no luck. None. Zero. Zip. Nada. Between the two of us we've spent hours on the phone, being transferred from one IRS flunky to another, and on more than a few occasions, being 'accidentally' disconnected and having to start all over again.

Searching the IRS website has also been a frustrating and futile effort, with much of the information there pointing us to the very same phone numbers we already called.

What we're getting is a bureaucratic runaround.

This isn't the first time I've had to deal with this particular bureaucracy and I'm finding today's experience no different from the one I had some years ago.

Way back in the dark ages – 1996 – I left he company I'd worked for for almost 20 years, receiving a huge severance package. Because of the paperwork involved with this package, I wasn't able to file my 1996 taxes on time and filed for an extension. I also cut a check for an amount approximating what I believed I would owe to the IRS. Once I received the required paperwork in August I filed my taxes, including a check for the small balance I still owed – about $150 – and waited to hear back from the IRS, knowing I'd have to pay some interest on the last $150 I paid. And I waited...and waited.

Both the original check I'd sent in April and the one I sent in August had been cashed by the Treasury Department, meaning they'd received my return, yet I heard nothing from the IRS. Even inquiries I made got me no answers.

Four years passed...

...and I started receiving letters from the IRS asking why I hadn't filed my 1996 taxes. It was the beginning of a seven year battle with the IRS, with me proving I had filed my taxes, including copies of the extension I had filed, a copy of my return, and copies of the canceled checks. Then doing it again. And then again. And again, ad nauseum. Even the IRS taxpayer advocate couldn't understand why I was having problems as I had proof of filing.

Every time I thought it was all settled I would get another dunning letter from yet another IRS office warning me I hadn't filed my 1996 tax return, to contact them or face dire consequences, starting the whole thing again.

It took seven years to straighten out the mess and in the end I owed something like $1.37 in interest to the government. Needless to say I have little faith in the bureaucracy that is the IRS.