I know, listening to someone else’s tax problems is like listening to an insurance salesman, but my problems are over, and I am only presenting this as an example of the sad state of the federal government that we could once count on to be competent and professional. Besides, I need the therapy.
Back in February, 2014, I filed my 2013 taxes electronically, well before the April deadline to be ahead of the rush, just as I have done for many years. Most of my investments are in Roth IRAs, so my income is only pension and social security. I automatically withhold more than enough taxes. I take the standard deduction without itemizing. All I need to do is copy a few numbers from one form to another. Pretty simple. There is nothing to question, nothing to go wrong (I thought).
But after several months, I realized I never got my refund. Their website has a clickable link to” Where’s my refund?” But it just came back with “In process.” Nothing wrong, no pending audit, no suggestion of fraud, just “In process.” There was no one ask for an explanation, no phone numbers to call, no email address, and no local office listed.
Every month I checked again with the same reply. As the months passed, I became annoyed. Many thousands are scamming the system of billions of dollars by submitting false tax forms and the IRS immediately responds with the refunds without verification, even sending dozens to the same address. I have been paying my taxes legally and honestly, without question, for years, but now I can’t get back my own money. What’s causing the delay?
Finally, 2015 was approaching and I needed the problem to be resolved to do my next year’s taxes. In desperation, I called the office of our senator, and a staff person there was very helpful. They had a contact in the IRS. Just email him the tax form I had submitted with two release-of-information forms, and he would pass it on.
A few weeks later, my refund suddenly appeared in my bank account with no explanation or apology, and it was even more than I had calculated. The problem, I later learned, was that I had received a taxable check early in the year from my sister-in-law’s estate. I sent the IRS an estimated tax payment of $2,000 to more than cover the taxes, but then forgot I did so. I reported the inheritance as income, but not my payment. The payments I reported did not match their records of the payments received, and this stopped the process dead in its tracks, even though I was due more than I requested.
I was grateful to have the problem resolved thanks to my senator’s staff, but this is not how government should work. We should not have to depend on the good graces of an elected politician for the government to function as it should. Have we reverted to the old local politics of a whispered “I know a guy who knows a guy who can fix your problem.” But that’s the way it has become.