I'm sure this is because Trump knows I didn't vote for him

notice from IRS
Heading of a 5-page letter dunning me for money I had already paid

| I have run afoul of the IRS through no fault of my own, but it is my bank account that will take the hit. It's a small hit, but it's the principle of the thing.

In February — February 22 to be exact — I completed and filed my income tax returns for 2016. As is my wont, however, I specified that the taxes owing to the Great Uncle in DC should not be withdrawn until taxes were actually due.

The first odd thing this year was that the state of California sent my refund ($1.00) by paper check instead of an electronic transfer into my bank account as I had requested. I shrugged and forgot about it.

The second odd thing was getting a letter from the IRS dated April 13 complaining that the bank account I had specified to withdraw the taxes owed was closed.

rejection notice
Notice that my payment by electronic transfer had failed

Hello! Account closed?! What has Wells Fargo done now? But before taking up my lance to go tilting at the Wells Fargo windmill, I checked the printed copy of my return. Damn! I use TaxAct to prepare my returns and, as usual, allowed it to import 2015 data to speed along the filing process. And I had checked the account number that it imported. But sometime in the final checking before doing the actual file, TaxAct had gone back into my 2014 return and sucked up the bank account I was using at that time.

I suppose this must happen a lot, since the IRS has a form letter all prepared to mail out. And I was encouraged by a final paragraph of the letter:

payment timely
Make payment timely to avoid penalty and interest

Apart from the strange phrasing ("make payment timely") this seemed to suggest that if I got right on this there would be no penalties associated with this little snafu.

So, I hustled off to irs.gov and put in the required information to effect immediate withdrawal of the amount of taxes owed.

Thinking I had solved the problem, I once again relaxed.

 

Too hasty. Last Friday I received another notice, dated not last Friday (May 5) but today (May 8), that insisted that my account was in arrears and in addition to the original amount due there were penalties and interest to pay.

penalties
Penalties and interest

This notice was dated May 8, but my payment had actually been withdrawn from my bank account on April 24. Clearly this isn't right. "If you don't agree with the changes..." said the letter, and I definitely did not agree, I was to call to "review your account with a representative."

 
call log
Log of three calls to the IRS

I called first thing this morning at 6:40am PT. The automated system told me that they were "experiencing high call volume" and after 4 minutes of entering this, pressing that, finally got around to saying that the office was closed and that I should call back between the hours of 7am and 7pm. OK, it may have been before 7am my time but there are three other time zones in the US where it was after 7am!

The second call started at 7:29am PT. After the tedious routine of entering this, pressing that, and waiting on hold "for the next representative" for more than 19 minutes, the system emitted a harsh squawk followed by "due to technical difficulties you call cannot be completed at this time. Please try again later."

So, at 8:45am PT I tried again. Again with the entering this, pressing that, and so on before being put on hold "for the next representative." After 26 minutes a "Miss Corbin" came on the line and said she would ever so happy to review my account with me if I didn't mind being put on hold while she pulled up the records. After doing so, she explained that there was a balance of $31.31 on my account because of the penalties and interest (clearly wrong per the letter: 25 + 5.25 + 2.66 = 32.91). My argument that the original notice said I could avoid penalties and interest by "paying timely" fell on deaf ears.

So, I asked Miss Corbin, if I go immediately to irs.gov and pay this $31.31 how will I know that this is the end of it? "Oh, just go to irs.gov and select Transcript and you'll be able to see everything on your account after you register." Otherwise I could call back later in the week to check. To which I rejoined, "Sweetheart, I've just spent over an hour on hold to make this call. Another call ain't gonna happen."

Fine. I go and discover that the registration process which is supposed to be "Fast, Secure, Convenient, and Free" will "only take about 15 minutes" and will involve digging up factoids from previous returns to verify my identity. I don't think so.

What should have been one simple call took over an hour of my time. But this is what happens when ideologues keep cutting back the budget of the IRS because they want to shrink the government until they can "drown it in a bathtub." Good citizens who want to comply with the law have to endure endless waits on hold, interrupted only by irritating announcements ("Our representatives are still helping other customers. Please continue to hold.") and admonitions to go to irs.gov where almost all our questions can be answered. Ha!

Last updated on May 8, 2017

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