Thursday, October 15, 2015

Back Home - Fall Chores And Other IRS Therapy

We're back home and the weather has held off - as it has in recent years - so I still had time to rake the leaves and mulch the flower beds. 

Leaves had abandoned the trees and were snoozing on the ground.  But I had some calls to make first.  The first was easy.  The second was the IRS.  I'm still trying to remain patient.  But I still don't understand how a major national payroll company and my mom's accountant can believe they can file one way and the IRS says they can't.  Basically it's about the payroll deductions for my mom's caregiver.  ADP sent them to the business side of the IRS and the accountant mentioned them on the personal account.  So, the business side has the money and sends notices saying they have the money, but no filing and the personal account says they have the filing but no money.  I started attempting to work this out last January and got a very understanding and helpful agent who made sure I got power of attorney for my mom's taxes for 2014 and 2015.   But then I kept getting notices and I kept calling the numbers. You have to wait two hours to talk to anyone, so make sure the phone battery is fully charged and you have something you can do while the phone is on speaker.  Each notice got copied to the accountant and I called the IRS. 

Finally in August or September a guy on the business side said, no, you can't do it that way.  You need to amend the personal tax form and get rid of the payroll taxes and file 940s with the business side for the quarterly deductions.  So that was done in September.  

When we got home, I had a notice to my mom, c/o me, in Anchorage, saying they were going to seize my property to cover the amount due.  The agent I got this morning - less than a minute pushing buttons and waiting - understood what was happening and said he needed to put the collection notice on hold for 60 to 90 days until the amended return got into the computer system.  But that part of the computer system was down so he couldn't do it then.  I should call back in a few hours and have it done. 

That's when I went outside to rake the leaves. 

The birch had been the first to start falling, then the cottonwoods, then the mountain ash, and last the Japanese maple.  I also cleaned out the rain gutters - there were plants growing in the one in front, in great compost.  And I mulched the flower beds with the leaves. 

And I ate a few rosehips.  I love them, even with the seeds.  And they have huge amounts of vitamin C.   From the Fairbanks News Miner:

". . . rose hips have 20 to 40 percent more vitamin C than oranges. Plus, 25 percent more iron, 28 percent more calcium and 25 times more vitamin A. They provide vitamins E and B, as well as selenium, phosphorus and a host of antioxidants. Finally, they have a lot of pectin, which is one of the water soluble fibers that lowers cholesterol."

And then when I got cleaned up and went back inside, I called the IRS back.  This time a woman answered, again quickly.  I guess the seizure notices get a better phone number.  She started to question my right to talk to her.  But I have power of attorney.  Yes, but once the tax payer dies, the power of attorney isn't good any more.  But I talked to Mr. V this morning and we did this and that and . . . I'm going to cut you off because I can't talk to you.  You have to file Form 56.  Can I turn it in at my local IRS office?  No, they'll just mail it.  But she did extend the time a bit to get the Form 56 in.  When you do that, you'll get a notice to your mom c/o you at your address.  That's exactly what the notice says that I'm calling about.  She was abrupt, cold, never said sorry about your mom (as the others did) and even though she could corroborate on the computer everything I said and that Mr. V had said to call back to extend the time for the amended form to get into the system, she just kept saying, it won't do any good to talk any more.  She couldn't do anything about it.  Grrrrrrr. 

I hung up.  Waited ten minutes.  Everyone else I've talked to since January has been much more understanding and helpful.  I called back and got Mr. VH who did say he extended things for 90 days.  He also suggested I take it to my local IRS office.  I mentioned Ms. A had said not to.  

But I was on the phone in the morning for about 40 minutes with Mr. V, then about 30 minutes with Ms. A, and another 45 minutes with Mr. VH.  The IRS had all the money since January - before the April filing date.  Actually, they've gotten it each quarter in 2014.  It's just that the business side and the personal side aren't talking to each other - even though the business side can see the personal side computer info.  Earlier people I talked to said they'd make sure no penalties were levied, though there is now additional interest and a penalty on the bill.  I'm assuming that will be removed. 

I believe in paying taxes, and while there are things I'd rather taxes weren't spent on - like the Iraq war and contracts with Haliburton - I understand that the many programs I do support need tax money.  But I can understand why people get enraged at the IRS.  And I also understand that part of the problem - like the long phone waiting - is because Congress doesn't adequately fund the IRS.  I think in part the plan of conservatives is to starve government agencies so they can't do their jobs well and this causes people to hate government.  But also, if the government is not funded adequately, they can't enforce the law and so tax dodgers and polluters and embezzlers and all the other types of cheats are less likely to get caught.  But I have to admit that if they can't figure out something as simple as my issue, then I'm sure they totally screw up more complicated filings. 

I was randomly selected to answer a phone survey.  It was relatively well done.  There were questions I could answer with appropriate options.  But the part I liked best was there were parts where I could actually talk and explain.  This was all automated.  And, they gave me the phone number of the IRS citizen advocate and I will definitely contact that office. 

The other good thing I did when we got back last night was take the sourdough starter out of the refrigerator and refreshed it with more flour and water.  I realize I haven't posted about trying out my new bread book I got this summer, but it was touch and go in the beginning when I did follow the instructions carefully, but the starter just wasn't wet enough. I've been making bread for years, but never with sourdough starter.   But I watched some online videos and added more water and eventually baked several credible loaves.  But then I had to put the starter in the fridge when we left town.  This morning it had expanded and was clearly the living thing bakers talk about.  And tonight I started another loaf.  I let it rise once and now it is in the fridge and I'll finish the steps tomorrow. 

Raking and other yard work and kneading bread are all good IRS therapy.


  1. Re your mum and your IRS dealings -- I feel for your loss and your frustration. It is a quagmire of rules dealt out by some petty third-world-like officious clerks. The Kim Davis syndrome.

    1. Thanks Barbara. I would say that almost all the agents I've spoken to have been decent and helpful, but they didn't seem to have the power to get into the system and solve the problem. A major issue is the severe cutback in the IRS. They told me today that it takes about 16 weeks to enter amended returns. That's almost four months. They only gave me a three month extension to wait for my information to be reconciled. Check this report that begins:

      "The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) budget has been cut by 18 percent since 2010, after adjusting for inflation. The cuts have forced the IRS to reduce its workforce, severely scale back employee training, and delay much-needed upgrades to information technology systems. These steps, in turn, have weakened the IRS's ability to enforce the nation's tax laws and serve taxpayers efficiently, as the National Taxpayer Advocate, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the IRS Oversight Board, and the Government Accountability Office all have documented."

  2. Steve, everyone. Your on-going effort reminds me why Gene and I pay an accountant to represent us in TWO countries where we must file taxes (and it costs us dearly). The confusion given two different tax-years, systems of filing forms, and just how the bureaucracies work can be simply put: maddening.

    On another note, Steve, the story in which you put your readers is (fun?). Please excuse me (and many of your readers, I would think) who are wishing you well, but at the same time, waiting for the next twist in your circle-squaring saga. And really, best of luck. Big systems' never-ceasing ability to create other-accountability can be a wonder, can't they?


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