Thursday, March 19, 2009

Share Your Two Cents (Please)

I am going to diverge from my usual blog content today, I hope you don't mind.

I'm going to be a little... disconcerted.

You see, we got a letter saying we were being audited by the State Tax Commission. It said that they thought it would be fun, after 3 years, to compare our State Tax return with our Federal Tax return. Their comparison indicated a discrepancy and possible corrections.

We dusted off our copies of the 2006 returns and could not see the discrepancy. In fact, it appeared that all things were in order.

We had two options.

1. Agree with the discrepancy and pay additional taxes.

2. Disagree and send in complete copies of both tax returns from 2006 including all schedules and forms, copies of any letters from the IRS regarding our 2006 taxes, a copy of the letter I am summarizing here, our daytime phone number, one package of press-on nails, a gift card to WalMart, and our 3 favorite children. A pay-your-own-postage envelope was enclosed, for our convenience.

We decided to create another option.

3. Call the Auditing Division and figure out exactly what they were looking at since everything looked hunky-dory on our end.

The auditor was very nice. He pointed out that we had entered a big, fat ZERO on line 5 when we should have entered a big, fat $2009. I looked at the copy of our return. No ZERO. It said $2009. Every i... dotted. Every t... crossed. I told him as much.

I heard frantic typing through the silence from his end of the phone as he pulled up a copy of our actual return.

Okay, now they had it. It seemed that, back in 2006, someone on their end had entered our return in their system incorrectly. One of their State Tax Commission employees had looked at our nicely filed return, saw $2009, but entered a big, fat ZERO.

Their mistake. End of story, right?

Oh, no. It was just the beginning.

Because we were refunded $141 more than we should have been (due to their mistake) they would bill us for it. Plus interest, please. (I told you, Mr. Auditor was very nice.) I asked why we would have to pay interest on their mistake. Mr. Auditor informed me that the interest could likely be waived if we appealed it.

"Wait. Let me be sure I understand before I go crazy on you," I said to Mr. Auditor.

"Certainly!" he replied.

"We filed our taxes correctly. Everything was written in the exact amounts, on the right lines. And then someone in your office, whose job it is to enter information from our forms into your system, made a mistake. And now we have to pay for that mistake as well as going through the trouble of appealing the interest we are being charged on your mistake?"

"Exactly!" Mr. Auditor responded happily.

I passed the phone over to Allen as he is much better at confrontation and not crying when he is frustrated than myself.

They had a conversation where Mr. Auditor maintained his smiling voice and used lots of phrases like "not necessarily" (as in, it was not necessarily their mistake) and "I can understand your frustration".

End result? The State Tax Commission is not in the wrong. We are.

I would really, really love to hear your opinions on this.

Please. (See, I can be very nice, too.)

Are we crazy here? What would you do?


Happy Hubby, JJ, Bugs, Nenie and Sadie Jo said...

This perturbs me for you. You ask what I would do. Call my CPA and ask if the state tax commission can charge you for their mistake, then I would call this guys supervisor and very kindly ask if he could review it to make sure you need to pay it.
If they insist that I pay it, I would ask that I be able to claim it on next years taxes.

I would have cried too.
Thats utilities for a month, two weeks worth of groceries, gasoline for a month.......

Rebecca said...

I would call the news. They always have investigator-reporters who seem to be able to solve these problems.

Plus I would eat some really good chocolate.

Rebecca said...

P.S. That's pretty unbelievable.

Panama Jones said...

You can always call Gephardt ("Get Gephardt" on channel 2 news)--he lives for these kinds of things.

But yes, they made the mistake, but you still have the patriotic duty of paying what you owe. I guess if you think of it like tithing, even if the error was someone else's fault, you would still want to be caught up.

The interest part, on the other hand, is rediculous. That should be able to be taken care of with a simple phone call to a supervisor.

Teachinfourth said...

I'd probably start off by asking myself, "What would Jesus do?" I would then take that optional course of action into mind and then consider, "What would Satan do?"

With these two conflicting (and highly differentiated) means of response, I would most likely choose something in the 'inbetweens' allowing for not only self-sanctification, but to appease the powers that be in the process.

Now, what would this unknown course of action be?

I have no idea. I'm just not that spiritual. However, which of your three children do you love the least?

Bad Mommy said...

Could you point out to the State of Utah how much money you have saved them by raising 9 kids without any food stamps or government housing or Horizon cards and by not taking even five minutes of the DCFS's precious time? Utah State is lucky to have you guys contributing to society and your kids in its school system, propping up test scores and making the teachers' jobs worth it. (I could go on and on here...) Yah, you guys should send THEM the bill for your awesomeness!

Cami said...

I would be ticked! I would definitely fight this one. It was not your mistake. Even though it was "not necessarily" theirs. I don't think you should have to pay for a mistake you didn't make!

P.S. Keep us posted. I am curious as to the outcome of this discrepancy.

P.P.S. I think the "Get Gephardt" idea is a great one!

Pam said...

I would be spitting nails! You definitely need to fight this.

P.S. My security word is "unfir." I think that's a hint.

Damon said...

I am a huge believer in talking to someone ELSE! I think it's all who you talk to!

I like the Gephardt idea, too.

My dad had someone come over from the government to assess something on his property because they live close to gas station. He refused...knowing it could mean the government taking over his property for a while. They "amiably" tried to convince him. All of us in our family know it is hard to change my dad's mind once he has made a decision. So, he stood strong. Well, later this same government official told him when visiting him with paper work, that he would have made the same decision (his personal opinion). But, of course as an employee of the government- he had to tell him otherwise. So, there ya go. That's our government for ya!

~j. said...

Get Gephardt.

Gina said...

I am a little late with this comment. I stewed and stewed over this, so angry for you, but with no good advice to give. Then...duh-duh-dunnnn...I watched the news. You should "Get Gephardt." Of course, now, your have already been told that multiple times. I am fourthing the motion. Is that even a word?

Diane said...

We got the same letter!!! I'm so mad I could spit at them, and I don't even do that. So now I'm pulling all my old records and trying to sort this out before we end up losing our house or something stupid like that. And ours was over how much we paid for health insurance.

If you find an approach that works, please share it!

Why is AIG getting off scot free???

Chelle! said...

OUCH!! I am so sorry for you!!! I agree with the others--Get Gephardt!!

Michelle said...

"not necessarily their mistake?" Sounds to me like it was COMPLETELY their mistake.

So sorry--I hope you get it all worked out.

Anaise said...

So you cry, you rant and rave, you write about it on your blog, and then you fill out the annoying appeal forms. You could go ahead and call your local news guy, too. He may make a lot of people annoyed on your behalf and he may get the form appealed for you, but in the end, the appeal form is what it will take--this is the US government we're talking about here--your local news guy won't get anything changed.

I had to deal with something very similar at my dentist's office--due to his office staff's incompetence, I ended up having to pay hundreds of extra dollars for some work I'd already had done. I tried being polite and reasonable; I tried being difficult and unreasonable; I tried to go over their heads . . . in the end I paid the money . . . it was cheaper and less of a headache and more Christlike than threatening a law suit.

I'm sorry for this rotten, crummy, frustrating, and unfair annoyance in your life . . . but you do have a gift of seeing the bright side of things . . . perhaps you can look at it as a challenge!?

Gerb said...

Hey EVERYONE... thanks for all the great comments and support. We have decided to fight the interest charge (not by means of a long, drawn-out appeal but by means of connections with some good people) and as soon as that is waived we will pay the $141 overage back - that seems the honest thing to do. It IS frustrating that the government is not required to pay us interest on the money they take from us all year long and return at tax time, yet we are expected to pay interest on money they accidentally gave us... but that's the nature of the government. (and that was one LONG sentence!)

Shellie said...

Charge them interest for taking so long to correct their own mistake which means you get to keep the $141 ish amount they gave you in error and call it even because you are so nice that you won't charge them your labor fee for digging up everything and pointing out their error to them. Put it all in writing and appeal to someone higher up the chain there instead of Mr answers the phone guy. Good luck, but I wouldn't go down without a fight, this is just what they want is to get you to give up and pay interest.

Chip said...

There are Government watch dog organizations that can make their life hell. I would start off with the BBB (better business bureau)... My next response would have been something to the effect of... Show me documentation that proves the action you are asking me to take is legal policy. There has to be some sort of Legislative sub committee on tax-law-screwups that could point you in the right direction. I would make Mr. Friendly sweat for a few days. I'll bet dollars to donuts there is no such legal obligation on your part. In fact, I suspect Mr Friendly will come up with some bogus "best practices" statement that would hold no water.