Most people who read my blog know that I typically write about positive things going on in the world rather than focusing on the negative, but I must get this story off my chest.
A few months back, my wife and I went through that nervous phase of pulling all our financial documents together before the April 15th tax deadline. Anyone who files their taxes in the United States knows this can be a time of great stress. Were we getting money back or paying more taxes?
Ideally, the goal should be to break close to even. Is there anything more discouraging than paying taxes all year long only to get another hefty tax bill when filing income tax forms? While getting huge refunds is exciting, that typically happens because we’ve overpaid our taxes the preceding year. It makes the most sense to keep those dollars during the year and make them work in solid investments.
As many others can probably relate, it’s a moment of suspense as your accountant reveals this year’s bottom line. “Ugh—we owe how much more???” Our accountant quickly tried to reassure us that while he understood our pain, we should feel comforted by the fact that our investments had done so well. Was he right? Yes. Did that make us feel better? Not particularly.
My wife wrote the checks to the federal and state governments as the deadline neared. Whew! Done for another year, or so we thought. This week we received a letter from the IRS informing us that we had not paid our taxes and owed penalties—not a great feeling. The problem was we knew that we had paid. My wife, the chief billpayer in the family, deserves all the credit for her organization, good record keeping, and persistence. She showed me that they had cashed the check before the deadline.
Shouldn’t this be easy to clear up? One would think, but not so fast. The first point of frustration was trying to speak to an IRS representative so that we could straighten the mess out. Each phone call led to more frustration. We kept getting a message detailing that there weren’t enough people to handle the volume of calls. After two days of trying, my wife finally got through. She stayed on hold for a half hour before finally getting to speak to someone. The IRS agent put her on hold several times while he tried to track the payment down. Unable to do so after a long time, he directed us to get an official copy of the cashed check from our bank.
After getting a copy of the check from the bank, we wrote the IRS as instructed. Debbie, my wife, took the letter to the post office. Not wanting to have any other problems, we attempted to send a registered letter. That’s when we learned that the IRS does not accept registered letters. Oh well, send it. After Debbie paid the postage, she wanted to purchase a couple of books of stamps since we were out. Sounds like a simple transaction, right? Wrong again!
I know it sounds absurd, but the post office was out of stamps—talk about irony! What? How does that happen? You’re the post office! Once again, the explanation left me scratching my head. One individual at the post office oversees ordering stamps, and he’s been out of the office for two weeks with Covid. Wait, you mean there’s no backup plan? Their only suggestion was to try the other post office branch in town. Of course, the same person orders their stamps too. Debbie bought two of the last books of stamps they had.
While I know that the post office is a frequent target of consumer complaints, I typically defend them. Sending documents electronically in a matter of seconds is great; however, I also think it’s remarkable to send a letter across the country for 58 cents in a matter of days, especially considering the cost of gas.
We think this will all get ironed out eventually, but what a lot of unnecessary stress and inefficiency. When has the bureaucracy of government frustrated you?