M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Thursday, April 10, 2003  

Taxing My Patience

Trash and I did our taxes back in February.

That’s not entirely accurate. Trash did the taxes, sitting at my computer and finding and installing the proper software and plugging in the appropriate numbers and data and so forth while I turned the bedroom upside down looking for last year’s Form 3497/D, Schedule SDFKGHS349300LD0, with Attachment ð because I couldn’t remember where I put it last year. This always happens. Every year I screw something up on the taxes, and it not only throws a wrench in that year’s preparation work, it also comes back to bite us in the ass the following year. I should probably make an H&R Block-based joke about myself here, but that’s too obvious even for me.

But anyway, Trash once again overcame the obstacles I’d thrown in her way, got it all figured out, and did whatever she needed to do to file our taxes electronically. Then all we had to do was sign a form, mail it in, and sit back and wait to receive e-mail confirmation that our return had been…returned.

We signed. We mailed. We sat. We waited.

I guess that makes it sound like we camped out on the front step for six weeks, staring at the mailbox with the cordless phone between us, but that’s not accurate either. We got on with our lives, content knowing we’d done what needed to be done. We worked, we slept, we ate, we did married-people stuff, we did just-started-dating stuff, we hung out, we went places, we watched TV and read books.

At some point, all those Internet banner ads for tax-prep services started getting to me a little bit. Six weeks ago, they made me feel all smug. “My taxes are done,” I’d said a few weeks ago. Now I was saying, “My taxes are done. Right?” Because we never did get any confirmation that what we’d done had been received or acknowledged in any official way. It’s bad enough to have gone through the work and stress of putting the return together. It’s worse to have had to pay in this year, to the tune of two figures. Having some administrative error, on our end or theirs, get in the way of the thing getting processed on time would be intolerable. The last thing we need is to get busted for tax evasion. That’s what they got Capone for, you know.

So, a couple of weeks ago I started doing some calling. If things had gotten bollixed up somewhere along the line, I wanted to leave us enough time to get it corrected. Let’s just say it’s a good thing I started a couple of weeks ago.

Actually, no, let’s not just say that. If you want to check on your return, there are so many numbers to call that dialing them feels like you’re calculating orbit trajectories on a pocket calculator. Then you’re dropped head-first into one of a thousand labyrinthine, overlapping, automated phone mazes. And those will only help you if you’re checking on the status of a refund. And then you have to know the exact amount of your refund, which I didn’t—all I knew off the top of my head was that it was a negative number. And they don’t recognize those. It’s like they want us to be late with our payment. If you’re trying to make sure your payment got in, you’re out of luck until the goons from the Treasury Department bust your door down.

It took me a week and I had to lie to several automated phone mazes. I’m not proud of myself for that. But I eventually got through to a real person. And what a person.

Listen, lots of humor writers before me have gotten tons of mileage out of making fun of IRS employees. These uptight, impotent, bald, anal-retentive bureaucrats are ripe for calumny. And so are the men who work there. But that’s not going to stop me from saying that the IRS employee I talked to was awesome.

I hate calling people about stuff on the phone, because I can never express my position well enough to get through to the soul-dead drones at the other end of the phone who consider me beneath contempt because I’m even raising the question in the first place. But Anne at the IRS gave me some of the best customer service I’ve ever gotten over the phone. She was pleasant, she listened to me, she took me seriously, didn’t rush me off the phone, and my issue seemed just as important to her as it was to me. Her sunny, helpful attitude was so contrary to what I’d expected that my judgment was momentarily impaired.

“Now, your tax status is Married, filing jointly?” she asked me at one point.

“Yes, but my wife and I have an understanding,” I said.

Anne wasn’t able to give me an answer right away, but she promised to call me back by today at the latest. I know what that meant. It meant I’d be calling next Monday saying, “Anne, what happened?” and they’d say, “who are you?” and I’d say, “Nooooooo!” and then I’d wake up on the morning of April 16th at Camp X-Ray.

Except that Anne called me back yesterday. She’d resolved the issue—our return was in the system, but it was stuck in a technological roundabout like the Griswolds in European Vacation (“Look, kids! Big Ben! Parliament!”). It was entirely their fault and she was really sorry, but it wasn’t’ going to affect us in any way. I offered to send a backup check, just to be safe, but she nixed that idea. Even if it didn’t get processed by the fifteenth, she was personally going to make certain that we wouldn’t be on the hook for any late fees or crunchy beatings from repressed G-men. Then I asked her if it was too late for us to amend our return in order to tip her.

That’s right. I’m actually happy with the IRS right now. Anne succeeded where Push, Nevada failed.

* * *

Of course, it’s against the rules to talk about taxes without a little token bitching about what they’re paying for. In the spirit of that, we bring you…

* * *

“Patriot” Act, my ass. From a single, 880-word article in yesterday’s New York Times, emphasis mine:

“The Patriot Act has been an extremely useful tool, a demonstrated success, and we don't want that to expire on us," a senior [Justice] department official said on condition of anonymity.

Another senior official who also demanded anonymity said the department had held discussions with Congressional Republicans about how that might best be accomplished…

…An aide who demanded anonymity said of the “lone wolf” bill: "We support this bill as it is and that's how we want to see it passed.”

Do I really need to add anything else?

posted by M. Giant 4:29 PM 0 comments


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