In Which the IRS Affirms My Libertarianism

Monday, November 8th, 2010

So as I noted in April and August, the IRS seems to be having a problem with my 2009 tax refund. It’s now November. And I still haven’t received it.

To recap: I filed well ahead of the deadline. But I e-filed, and a couple days later received a response that there was a problem with my Social Security number. So I called the IRS help line to figure out what I needed to do. They told me to print out the return and send it through the mail. So I did.

Months passed. Nothing happened. I called a couple times over the summer. They said my return was still being investigated, but they couldn’t give me any details. I asked if there was anything I could do to expedite the process. They said to call back if I haven’t heard anything in 90 days. Both times, I made sure the IRS knew that I have moved since I filed my return, and gave them my new address.

Fast forward to last month. I called a fourth time to see what’s happened to my return. The guy on the help line again said that it’s still being investigated. But this time, he also said the IRS did send me a notice about my account in early May, and that I ignored it. I told him I wouldn’t have done that. I was waiting for my refund. He asked if I’ve moved. I replied, with exasperation, that I had moved in late May, and that I have noted this and given my new address each time I’ve previously called. He said he had no record of my new address, but that he would change it in the system.

Of course, even they did send a notice, I didn’t move until the end of May. So I still should have received it. I also filed a change of address form with the U.S. Post Office. All of my other mail was forwarded (save, curiously, for a parking ticket notice from the D.C. government. But that’s another story). Anyway, IRS guy says he will generate a new letter telling me the status of my return (he again says he can’t tell me what’s wrong with my return over the phone). He says I should receive it within a week. I have him read back my new address and confirm that this is the address to which the notice will be sent. All is correct.

As of last week, the letter still hadn’t arrived. So last week, I called back. This time IRS lady finally told me the source of the original problem: Last March, someone else filed a return under my Social Security number. The IRS received that return before they received mine. She then said, “You should have sent proof of your identity and an identity theft form back in May, when we sent you a notice asking for it.” I replied, trying with all my might to avoid using profanity, “No one ever told me what the problem was. It is November. This is the first time I’ve been told that someone else filed under my Social Security number. I never received any letter in May. Which is what I told the guy I talked to last month, and everyone I talked to before that. I also never received the notice I was supposed to have received within a week of my last call.”

After much hemming, hawing, checking, and putting me on hold, here’s apparently what happened: Someone else filed a return using my Social Security number. So because there was already a return on file under my number, my return was rejected. According to the woman I spoke with today, when I called the help line to ask what to do after the initial rejection, they should have told me to send proof of identity when I sent my return by snail mail. But they didn’t. She also said there was no reason why they couldn’t have given me an explanation the multiple other times I called. I asked, “So why didn’t they?” She answered, “They should have.” Well, okay then.

So what about that letter last May, the one the IRS guy last month said I should have responded to, subtly implying that this was all my fault?

It seems that when more than one return is filed under the same Social Security number, the address on the return the IRS receives first is the address they associate with the account. That’s where all the notices go. Even when it makes no sense to send notices to that address.

So when I sent in my return via mail, and it didn’t have the proof of identity with it (because no one at the IRS help line told me to do so), they processed the letter as just another tax return, not a return re-filed because of a problem with a taxpayer ID problem. When they realized someone else had already filed under my number, they sent the response letter asking me to prove my ID to the address of the person who wrongly filed under my Social Security number. I asked the IRS lady why they would do this. I can understand sending a request for proof of ID to both addresses. But it’s rather stupid to send a response to my tax return to the address of the other person. Especially if it’s a response asking for proof of ID. She again replied, automaton-like, that all correspondence goes out to the address associated with the account. Even, I guess, when it makes absolutely no sense to do so.

As for the letter I should have received within a week of my call on October 6, I finally received it on Saturday, November 6. Good enough for government work.

So I now have to verify my identity by sending in copies of my driver’s license, passport, etc. I also have to send in another copy of my return, but also note (she said use a sharpie and write in all caps if necessary) that this is a copy of a return already filed, lest some dolt at the agency actually mistake it for a third, separate person trying to file under my Social Security number.

Even after I send all of this, I was told it could be 30 days before I get a response. And that’s just for the acknowledgment. It’ll likely be well past Tax Day 2011 before they sort this out and issue my 2009 refund. At this point I’ll be pleasantly surprised if I ever get it.

I keep pretty close track of my credit, and it doesn’t appear that anyone has stolen my identity. The most likely explanation is that someone with a Social Security number similar to mine accidentally transposed a couple numbers (for all I know, that person is fighting like hell to figure out what’s going on, too). I obviously don’t fault the IRS for the fact that someone else filed under my number. But I sure as hell fault them for everything that’s happened since. If someone had stolen my identity, and if I didn’t regularly check my credit, the thief could have done a hell of a lot of damage by now. The IRS could have warned me about it all last May.

The punchline is that as I was filling out my taxes this year, I got a “tip” suggesting that because I have multiple sources of income, some of which aren’t subject to withholding (speeches, freelance work, etc.), I should consider paying my taxes quarterly, and may suffer a penalty next year if I don’t. God forbid the government doesn’t get its money forthwith. But when they have your money? You’ll get it when they’re damned good and ready.

It’s not a huge amount of money. I try to adjust my withholding to come close to breaking even. But it’s enough to make me irritated that I still haven’t gotten it back. And yeah, it’s also the principle of it, knowing that not only is this incompetent bureaucracy making me jump through hoops to get back my money the government is holding, but my tax dollars are paying for my privilege of jumping through aforementioned hoops.

I’d rather a mugger have just taken the money from me. At least a mugger doesn’t bill you for his services.

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75 Responses to “In Which the IRS Affirms My Libertarianism”

  1. #1 |  goober1223 | 

    And remember, this is mostly to formally declare 99% of what they already know about you and your accounts. Finally some answers, at least, even if the answers are implied to be “Each person you have spoken with so far is an idiot.”

  2. #2 |  overgoverned | 

    Don’t ever call the IRS! Write to them, by certified mail. Then, when they say that they never heard from you, you can prove that they’re wrong. Establish a paper trail that proves your case. Then send all your documentation to your Congress critter, who can assign a constituent service staffer to beat on the IRS for you. They don’t respond to sense; they respond to pressure.

    (Longtime freelancer, with several tax problems behind me….)

  3. #3 |  Cynical in CA | 

    Your writing sparkles when you’re angry, Radley!

    “… this was all my fault?”

    In the eyes of the government, for being born, yes. Sad to say.

  4. #4 |  Dave Krueger | 

    The most likely explanation is that someone with a Social Security number similar to mine accidentally transposed a couple numbers (for all I know, they’re fighting like hell to figure out what’s going on, too). I obviously don’t fault the IRS for someone else filing under my number.

    No, what most likely happened was some dip shit at the IRS misread or mistyped the SSN from someone else’s correctly filed return. They have left you no room to give them the benefit of the doubt. They are idiots and they are far more likely to have been behind the mistake than someone else who was meticulously and desperately trying not to give incompetent IRS clerks any reason to fuck up.

  5. #5 |  Highway | 

    “You see, Mr. Bulkos, that we have been forwarded some of your so-called ‘work’, in which you don’t seem to have a very favorable opinion of us hard-working IRS employees. Since you hold us in such low esteem, it’s obvious that we could never do something so simple as tell you why we have held up your return.

    Perhaps in the future, your attitude about the tax collection process will improve, with a commensurate improvement in our ‘customer’ service.”

  6. #6 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Keep in mind that these are the same caliber of people that will soon be in charge of your health care. It’s as if Kafka is still alive and in charge of “customer service” for the U.S. government.

  7. #7 |  Can’t wait for them to run healthcare… « Polyhistor | 

    […] Radley Balko describes his experience with the IRS. […]

  8. #8 |  Joe | 

    Radley: There are no coincidences.

  9. #9 |  Joe | 

    #2 is correct. Certified letters every time. Document, Document, Document.

    Did you ask them for interest given they have been sitting on your money for a year? Did they laugh?

  10. #10 |  Mike H | 

    You are an assigned number.
    Assigned number has been duplicated.
    You are a numerical redundancy.
    System = DELETE.

  11. #11 |  Bill | 

    I kinda hate to bring this up — and I’ve blissfully forgotten how all of the tax code works (or rather doesn’t), since my wife, bless her, actually likes engaging the process — but as the tax return from the incorrect SSN was clearly also filed early, and thus also likely expecting a refund (which he’s likely also received long ago), and that refund is evidently also still associated with your SSN rather than his, any odds on you getting audited next year because of it…?

    Glad to see you mention planning withholdings (AKA interest-free loan to Uncle Sam) for “no refund.” ‘Course, if you’d succeeded last year, you’d never have known your servants were living up to their reputation before that audit notice arrived…

  12. #12 |  Pasquin | 

    I can hardly wait until these guys are in charge of my MRIs!

  13. #13 |  RobertB | 

    You should probably contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service for problems like this.

  14. #14 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #11 Bill

    …but as the tax return from the incorrect SSN was clearly also filed early, and thus also likely expecting a refund (which he’s likely also received long ago), and that refund is evidently also still associated with your SSN rather than his…

    Not a problem. They will probably just deduct the refund they sent to the other guy from the refund they are about to send Radley and call it even.

  15. #15 |  JS | 

    See this is why the government should never have been allowed to assign us all a number at birth in the first place. Or make up the income tax for that matter:

  16. #16 |  PermaLurker | 

    Good luck Radley,

    Something along those lines happened to me when I filed my first return after getting married. The Social Security Administration never reported my name change to the IRS, so my name and my SSN didn’t match their records. Many many phone calls, letters, certified proofs of marriage, etc later, I never got the refund for that year. After a while (8 years), I just gave up.

  17. #17 |  Jim Fryar | 

    It is great to see that we are not the only country with idiots renning things. “Australian Letter of the Year” is always a good read at times like this.

  18. #18 |  Jesse Walker | 

    You glibertartians only care about taxes. Why don’t you ever write about something substantial, Radley, like police abuses? I guess the Kochs wouldn’t stand for that!


    P.S. It occurs to me that libertarians are just Republicans who want to smoke pot. I think I’ll mention this incisive insight on the Internet, so others can be made aware of it as well.

  19. #19 |  yak | 

    Some FYI’s for those new to Byzantium.
    1. Always get a tax pro (CPA or Enrolled Agent) with your tax Power of Attorney immediately — they must receive a copy of all correspondence. Use a family member with a stable address if you don’t pay to have your taxes done.
    2. As mentioned, certified mail, or at least return receipt request, is your friend.
    3. The IRS public help line is, as you discovered, next to useless. I recall a study from a few years back that found approximately 40% of everything they said was wrong. Go to your nearest IRS office in person and make an accountable human deal with the problem.

    Finally, most SS# issue returns early in the year that aren’t divorced parents fighting over kids are a result of undocumented workers using your # for work purposes. You may get a CP2000 next fall asking you about that w-2 job you never had… Good luck with that one (see a professional).

  20. #20 |  dsp | 

    A couple of things:

    1. The IRS are the biggest dolts in government, surpassing even a state’s department of motor vehicles.
    2. Someone with an SSN similar to yours flubbed a number of three.
    3. This is what accountants are for, especially someone who should be paying estimated quarterlies. Hire an accountant, ya cheapskate.

  21. #21 |  JS | 

    Jim Fryar, nice one mate!

  22. #22 |  Stormy Dragon | 

    How to get back at the IRS:

    My dad once had an experience where he got auditted two years in a row. The following year, he made photocopies of everything the IRS would have asked to see in an audit, put it in a big box and mailed it along with the initial return as “supporting documentation”.

    A few weeks later he got a letter from the IRS asking him to please stop sending extraneous information with his return as the effort to file all of it was creating huge unbudgetted expenses. And their favorite form of retaliation is gone because there’s nothing else for them to ask to see.

    He hasn’t heard from them since.

  23. #23 |  primus | 

    My friend’s theory of Revenue Canada (our version) is that if you are in collections you are not in audit; he therefore counsels arranging things so you owe them some amount, enough to kick it over to the collections side and no more problem. I do that now also, and it seems to work. They are so happy to collect that they forget to audit.

  24. #24 |  Chuchundra | 

    Keep in mind that these are the same caliber of people that will soon be in charge of your health care. It’s as if Kafka is still alive and in charge of “customer service” for the U.S. government.

    Yes…and? Who the hell do you think is in charge of your health care now, Dave? Have you never had to call your insurance company and argue with some phone monkey over a bill or an authorization or whatever?

    Unfortunately, the government isn’t going to be taking over our health care system. They aren’t even taking over our health insurance system. In fact, the average person won’t be able to get health insurance from the government, even if the really really want it.

    So, you got that going for you…which is nice.

  25. #25 |  BamBam | 

    Further proof that dismantling of government is the only viable option for liberty.

    Radley, since the IRS drones lied to you multiple times, and gave the zero tolerance response “we can’t think, we must follow script, no exceptions”, and based on everything else you research and know for fact, why on earth would you think the IRS isn’t at fault as #4 points out?

    #2 is right.

  26. #26 |  TomG | 

    I just had a curious thought – now that the Republicans have apparently gotten a solid majority in the US Congress, what are the chances of them repealing the automatic withholding part of the income tax ? I mean, they keep whining about high taxes etc, but will they have the guts to actually change one of the more pernicious aspects of it ?

  27. #27 |  Radley Balko | 

    Hire an accountant, ya cheapskate.

    Why the hell should I have to hire an expert merely so I can comply with the law?

    Also, I don’t really see how an accountant would have helped me in this case.

  28. #28 |  Paula | 

    This is happening to me too! Almost exactly. We sent our returns via turbo tax, online and it was repeatedly rejected, so I sent in a hard copy, that was in March. I feel like I am getting the run around. We to track our credit reports monthly.

    I think I will call again tomorrow and send a certified letter.

    Now I am pissed!

  29. #29 |  pris | 

    If you do not receive your refund soon, within two weeks, get in touch with your senator’s office. I have found them to be very helpful with many issues. This kind of insanity is something that causes people to apply for a job at the Post Office.

  30. #30 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #24 Chuchundra

    Unfortunately, the government isn’t going to be taking over our health care system. They aren’t even taking over our health insurance system.

    If that’s true, then it will be the only good thing to come out of the government’s debt crisis.

  31. #31 |  delta | 

    That sucks. I’ve had similar year-long fiascos with both my phone & cable companies. My digital phone company actually lost my phone number and no one could tell me that over 20+ calls across 6 months or so.

    At the risk of getting flamed here, the couple of times I’ve called the IRS they’ve been helpful and accessible. Distinctly better than most private companies I have to call. Just my experience.

  32. #32 |  Episiarch | 

    Why the hell should I have to hire an expert merely so I can comply with the law?

    Radley, as infuriating as it is to have to spend money in order to give the government your money (and I completely and totally understand your feeling on this), you will be better off with a tax accountant. They know how to deal with the IRS and communicate with them on a regular basis; they know the tax rules far better than you (even the IRS often doesn’t know which way it’s going to break on certain tax issues, and accountants follow this closely); and they are paid by you to take care of this stuff so that you don’t have to.

    It’s incredibly perverse that we have to pay money so that we make sure we give the government our money properly, but you will be happier in the long run (and might save additional money because of rules you didn’t even know about but the accountant does) if you get an accountant.

  33. #33 |  matt | 

    Happened to me twice in the past two years. First time they decided my wife’s last name (same as mine) was spelled wrong. That got federal rejected, so of course Georgia followed suit. Supposedly was SSA’s fault, but whatever, went through the hoops, got it fixed, all was good if a few months delayed (naturally they owed me). Oh, and we ended up paying taxes on some unknown Insurance payout we’d never heard of, but whatever. Now this year (for 2009) we got rejected again, followed by another Georgia rejection. This time they owed us even more. This time not only was her last name suspiciously wrong again, now her BIRTHDAY was wrong. Mind you, nowhere on our tax returns was her birthday. Took until August to get worked out. We were right this year, no secret hidden taxes to add. Ahh but then in September we get a letter from a certain rock-like Insurance company saying they’d issued us a check for some long-forgotten policy that had matured or something, but we hadn’t cashed it. Duh… it was hers from years before she and I ever met. They won’t give it to us, though, because the @#$% last names don’t match, because they go by SSA’s data. Argh.

  34. #34 |  Bernard | 

    I see an opportunity here.

    If an anarchic sort were to file a few thousand or more tax returns using random numbers and a dead return address then the system might finally get so tied up in the consequences that people finally saw the downside to rampant and ultra-secretive complexity in the tax code.

  35. #35 |  Cynical in CA | 

    “I’d rather a mugger have just taken the money from me. At least a mugger doesn’t bill you for his services.”

    Actually, the mugger does bill you for his services. And you don’t get any grace period. The real quote is “I’d rather a mugger have just taken the money from me, at least he doesn’t follow me around trying to “improve” my life or inflict nanny-statism on me.” Or something like that.

  36. #36 |  J.S. | 

    Radley, I agree with others on getting an accountant (but not the cheapskate line). Its just not worth the hassle in most cases if you have to do any serious calculations. I have to file state, fed and California state “non resident”. I don’t live in CA but for various reasons they want my data to calculate and hope I somehow owe them money.

  37. #37 |  BamBam | 

    Radley is right not to get an accountant. How can a person be expected to comply with “laws” that only an “expert accountant” can understand? I don’t care if one has stocks, a business, etc. the “laws” are perverse if only an “expert” can understand and navigate them.

    There are laws and then there are “laws”. Most laws are “laws” as they are immoral, inane, and perverse and thus should hold no weight with a free person.

  38. #38 |  KBCraig | 

    Balko asks:

    Why the hell should I have to hire an expert merely so I can comply with the law?

    You shouldn’t have to. But why should you? Well, being self-employed with multiple sources of income is reason enough to pay a professional to make sure you’re getting every deduction available.

    My wife is self-employed, as a dog groomer. I had always done my own taxes, because I had always been a payroll guy, and my taxes were simple. The first year we were married, I tried doing our return myself, I tried Turbotax, I tore my hair out, I cursed, I ranted, I couldn’t find any possible way that we owed less than $3,600 (which was about $3,595 more than we had).

    At her urging, we made an appointment with the Enrolled Agent who had always done her taxes and accounting, when she owned her own small business before we married. An 80 mile drive and $65 later, we were due a refund of $1,200.

    Also, I don’t really see how an accountant would have helped me in this case.

    They might not have been able to help. But if you file through an Enrolled Agent and are audited or there are any other problems, you never have to talk to the IRS. Your EA appears on your behalf. And since most of them are former IRS agents who were smart enough to GTFO, they have both insider knowledge and an intelligence advantage over those drones who stayed behind.

  39. #39 |  Ed Dunkle | 

    I have a special “Practitioner’s Priority” line that tends to lead to more senior people at the IRS and and who can frequently handle problems on the spot. Yes, you’d have to pay me, but it isn’t much, and you’d probably save yourself a lot of grief.

  40. #40 |  V | 

    This really is more of a case of really crappy customer service versus libertarianism/government incompetence. I’ve no doubt we’ve all had bad customer service experiences with a company (and god forbid it’s a broadband company where you may not have any other service providers available).

    Conversely, there have been government programs which have always done well in responding to customer complaints and problems.

  41. #41 |  John C. Randolph | 

    Sell the debt to a collection agency. Let’s get some pressure on those deadbeats!

    BTW, for next year: DO NOT let them have an unsecured loan.


  42. #42 |  Pete | 

    Holy shit, Bernard, that is… well, it’s beautiful.

    It reminds me of the guy who who would randomly use business return envelopes from junk mail he received to mail the contents of other junk mail. I mean, it’s a business opportunity, maybe they are interested!

    But your idea… A competent web programmer could whip up a site that spit out a printable pdf each time you clicked a button.

  43. #43 |  Pete | 

    One of the first few years you could file returns online, I did it. This was shortly after high school for me, and I was still living at home. I filed both federal and state returns for an expected I don’t know how much of a federal refund (probably $500 or so) and $200 from state.

    A week or two after I submit the returns H&R BulwarkedByCongress emailed me to let me know my federal return had been rejected. I called a few times and eventually found out that someone had claimed me as a dependent. I asked my mom if she had, and she said no, so I had to take it up with the IRS. (Fresh out of high school $500 or whatever it was was definitely worth fighting for.) I remember the federal fight was pretty easily won, but I never did get my $200 from the state.

    I distinctly remember every call as being handled by an ESL speaker, with predominately hispanic accents and a not-great grasp of the English language. If it was an outsourced call center, the Libertarian in me is fine with that. If it was a local call center staffed by predominantly immigrants, the human in me is perfectly fine with that.

    The American, English-speaking “customer” of the state tax agency in me, however, was not fine with not being understood and calls being cut short because the CSRs didn’t want to deal with a problem they didn’t understand, and wouldn’t tell me what to do, who to call, or where to go to get in touch with someone who either would understand or would be able to help.

    The whole thing made me feel like I had tried to submit a mail-in-rebate and then been subsequently denied because my envelope wasn’t properly bleached or something. It just smacked of exceedingly high-hanging fruit.

  44. #44 |  croaker | 

    The refund won’t matter if the rumors of a bank holiday on Friday, on top of monetizing the debt news, is accurate.

  45. #45 |  Stephen | 

    I bet that if you quit paying taxes they would figure out that you are really you pretty fast.

  46. #46 |  Dan | 

    Sounds about right Radley.

    The IRS computer systems and operational processes barely run without anomalies or edge cases. Though there has been some well-publicized attempts (and failures) at overhauls. After my own experience, I believe many of the “faults” there are maintained by design. It’s a whole lot easier to put money in, than get it out.

    I sincerely hope your situation ends without additional consequence. But I think there will be another post or three.

  47. #47 |  Cyto | 

    In addition to the tip about always using registered mail, I’ll add the secret term “problem resolution office”.

    I had a problem with my return during grad school many years back. Well, I didn’t have a problem, so much as the IRS computers had a problem. Similar to your situation, I had no responsibility for causing the problem and no power to fix the problem. The automatons at the IRS never heard of me or my problems every month as I contacted them for over 2 years. Letter after letter from the IRS threatened dire consequences over money I did not owe.

    Finally I found out about the problem resolution office. I was assigned a dedicated case worker who took over. I only had to deal with 2 people after that (the first one quit or was fired, whatever, so I had to start over with another one). So only another 8-10 months and I had my $440 bill cleared.

    That’s when they started in on year two of my fellowship. Another bill of $440 – erroneously. After two years working to clear that one up, they came for year three (now some 5+ years into the ordeal and 6 years out of grad school). I punted and let them have my $440. After a certain point it just wasn’t worth it. At least the problem resolution office cut down on the number of do-over conversations and threatening form letters. And they did finally fix 2/3 of my problems…

  48. #48 |  UCrawford | 

    Actually, someone may not have filed under your Social Security number at all…the IRS may have been the ones who transposed the numbers. They did that with my W-2 this year. Basically, they re-entered the data in their records from the form I e-filed to whatever system they use and their typist changed the amount of my earnings so that my $800 refund became $400 that I owed. Took me about four months to sort out, although that’s due to the fact that they didn’t reject my return like they did yours.

    Basically, I wouldn’t let the IRS off the hook for the dual filing if it appears nobody is stealing your identity in any other way. They probably screwed up the other person’s Social Security number when they entered it into their system.

  49. #49 |  Highway | 

    V @ #40

    The difference is that even the worst broadband provider can be told “I don’t want to deal with you and your service anymore” and be walked away from. Yes, you can make the decision to do without the service. Not so with our unhelpful friends at the IRS.

    And because they have absolutely no incentive to do anything to keep you as a ‘customer’ of the IRS, the ‘customer service’ will never improve.

  50. #50 |  Joe | 

    It took me three years to get a refund back. I probably spent almost a $100 in certified letters for $1,000. I spent way more time than it was worth. But eventually I got it refunded. It was bittersweet.

  51. #51 |  CJJScout | 

    So typical. Long story short, they audited me but nobody knew about it. Said they notified me about via mail, but I had moved and didn’t get anything. My accountants have been on it for about 10 months now. I have a federal tax lien of over $100k filed against me. It was closer to $200k, but they graciously applied some refunds to that amount.

    Now, I’m appealing through TAG (Tax Advocacy Group), another gov’t institution set up to help you navigate the IRS.

    How’s that for efficiency?

  52. #52 |  Boyd Durkin | 


    Handing over billions to their buddies AND ruining the economy AND printing money at will AND borrowing endless amounts of money…and what the hell…AND not having even the slightest intention of ever actually balancing a budget WHILE collecting taxes is one of the most obscene things the US Government has ever done. YOU have to pay (and your family suffers), but what the US Gov collects means nothing to them.

    Then some moron tells you “We still pay less than Sweden.” WTF?

    Just in case there are any Republicans who still believe they are fiscally conservative: The Republican House will do nothing to balance the budget or reduce spending. At most they will try to extend limited tax breaks…which does next to nothing unless combined with spending cuts.* Republicans are already himin-and-hawing over exactly what they would cut–choosing to close their eyes and chant “must extend Bush tax cuts.”

    Gold at an all-time high ($1400+). Crazy, stupid, irrational gold bugs! Don’t they know anything?

    *Yes, I’ll take any chance to keep more of my money but I still know I’m on an accelerating runaway train.

  53. #53 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    The great thing about the IRS is that if they make a mistake it is most likely covered by a law that says you’re still liable.

    “Sorry, we goofed. But we passed a law amongst ourselves saying it doesn’t matter. It’s for the children.”

  54. #54 |  perlhaqr | 

    Why the hell should I have to hire an expert merely so I can comply with the law?

    I’ve found it’s often financially a win to pay an accountant to do your taxes, if they’re even slightly complicated or you run your own business or own property. The first year I hired one, she cost me $250, and saved me $7,000 over what I had calculated my own taxes to be. Which was a worthwhile expenditure of $250, to say the least.

  55. #55 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Croaker @ 44 is talking about the following:

    Yes, it is Alex Jones, so you can take it as you will.

    However; when (not if) the US Government screws the peasants hard to get out of debt, it will be a lot like this. Then they will start creating debt again.

  56. #56 |  Jim Collins | 

    Three words.

    National Sales Tax.

    Plain and simple. No more tax returns, no more IRS intruding on your life.

  57. #57 |  KristenS | 

    Sell the debt to a collection agency. Let’s get some pressure on those deadbeats!

    I love this idea!!

  58. #58 |  Dante | 

    Reading stories like this one (Radley’s Tax Return problem caused by IRS incompetence/stupidity) makes me question why:

    Government employees make more than the private sector, and

    Government retirement/pensions are better than the private sector, and

    Government health care is better than the private sector.

    Stop calling it public service. It is self service.

  59. #59 |  Hunter | 

    Don’t forget your congressman. They have people who focus on constituent services. They idea being the person is grateful for the service of navigating the system the congressman helped to create that they’ll vote for him/her. I know heresy here but it is an available resource.
    You might not want to mention what you write about and be sure to say you love Big Brother.

  60. #60 |  random guy | 

    This past year I filled federal online, went to do the same for NC income tax. When I went on their website, I found that it had no encryption of any kind and would only allow direct deposit from bank accounts. I would have to enter in bank account and routing numbers on an unencrypted website. Yeah I sent that one in by mail, which either the post office or the Dept of Revenue lost. Five months later I get a letter saying my taxes are due with a late fee and that at six months after the (initial) due date I would be given an additional fee.


  61. #61 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Your tax dollars at work: Dept of Ag teams up with Pizza Hut and Dominos to sell more cheese. You can already guess why.

    Obviously there’re a ton of these, but this is an example even most Americans can understand.

  62. #62 |  lunchstealer | 

    The accountants’ lobby just luuuuurves the IRS and its customer service guys. They have all sorts of very sensible sounding rationalizations for making the tax code as complicated as possible, but when it comes down to it, it’s all about generating a market for their services.

  63. #63 |  Leon Wolfeson | 


    The problem is your tax codes are too complex.
    Also, your post is long and boring.

    No offence.

    (UK tax? Er, well, PAYE works fine for the contract jobs, for the rest there’s a two-page form I fill in once a year. That’s IT – Technically PAYE is a withholding scheme, but it’s based on a single, easy-to-check code and there’s no basically no withholding outside PAYE!)

  64. #64 |  Nobody special | 

    If you never do get resolution (which is a distinct possibility) then here’s what you do:

    1. File a 1040X for 2009 and indicate that you wish to apply your refund to your 2010 taxes.

    2. Cut your withholding down so that you owe, but don’t owe quite enough to incur a penalty. You NEVER want a refund. Ever. You always want to owe a little. That then allows you to apply the credit from 1.

    3. In your 2010 taxes, simply apply the credit from 2009 that you gave yourself. Since you end up owing (see #2) you end up writing a smaller check by the amount that your 2009 refund should have been. Presto! Problem solved, unless you’re due a refund this year too, having cut your withholding (see #1) so late in the year. If you’re due a refund this year and don’t receive it again, then make sure that for 2011, you owe more than the 2010 refund you didn’t receive. Then you can do the same trick again, filing a 2010 1040X to apply the credit to 2011.

  65. #65 |  v ~ | 

    it’s worth a lot to have an accountant prepare your taxes Radley, especially if you’re in any way self employed. said accountant would be responsible for finding out what’s up w/ your refund cheque if you don’t receive it in timely fashion. there’s also less of a chance that you’ll be audited if you have an accountant file your taxes. i love mine. she’s super awesome and absolutely on it. nice to have the process be pain free. maybe next year you’ll be inclined to agree :)

  66. #66 |  Bergman | 

    I wonder what would happen if you deducted the return the government owes you from what you pay next year? The books would balance then, after all…

  67. #67 |  Max J. | 

    And of course, this is a universal gov’t value. Every serviceman knows how hard it is to recover your money when you file a pay inquiry, which always miraculously takes weeks or months longer than the instantaneous shitstorm that results if the military thinks you owe it some cash.

  68. #68 |  Graham Shevlin | 

    Most of this nonsense could be swept away if the tax code was simplified by the removal of just about every deduction and special loophole. In the UK, where I used to live, the government simplified the tax system enormously in the 1980s. One of the major changes was the gradual removal of the mortgage interest tax deduction, which was a classic example of the Law Of Unintended Consequences.
    The challenge in the USA is the checks and balances system of government, which, coupled with the clout of the lobbyists for lawyers, accountants etc. who do very nicely out of the current byzantine code, makes real reform unlikely Any Time Soon.

  69. #69 |  bitsnbytes | 

    The IRS is supposed to pay you interest if they don’t process your refund in a timely manner, so go ahead and tell them you want it. The delay is due to their mistakes, and they should acknowledge it and pay up. It’s no problem for the government; they’ll just borrow a few bucks more from China.

  70. #70 |  The Liberty Papers »Blog Archive » If The Gov’t Doesn’t Pick Up The Trash, It’s Rat-Infested Black Plague For Us All | 

    […] can just ask the same Radley Balko how easy it is to get money he’s owed from the government, even when he’s done everything right and hounded them repeatedly for an […]

  71. #71 |  Pete | 

    I waited one solid year for my first time homebuyers tax credit. April 29th 2009 to May 1st 2010. I really could have used that $8500 the first year I owned the house to buy furniture and maybe stimulate the economy. Instead by the time the check showed up, I had cleared myself of all debt and socked the money away instead.

    Why did I have to wait? Because my previous address was a PO box. That was enough to get my 1040X flagged for investigation.

  72. #72 |  Toastrider | 

    My father works for the IRS.

    Everything Radley and the commenters have said?


    (My Dad’s not stupid. Really, he’s not. But he’s looking forward to retirement, because he’s tired of dealing with a tax code which is basically nothing but loopholes, dodges, and stupidity.)

  73. #73 |  Kim | 

    My mom is going through almost the exact same thing. Unfortunately, she was depending on her refund months ago and keeps getting the run around. There should be a way to gain interest on this money they are holding from her, just as they would have done to her, had the situation been reversed.

  74. #74 |  KTax | 

    This exact thing has happened to me. I filed for the home buyer credit. I just figured they were reviewing my information as everything I read from other people basically said it took them 8+ months to get their refunds.

    I called back in July and the girl I talked to couldn’t figure out what was wrong and would have the person working it contact me in 45 days. I also verified they had my current address as I had moved in December. Nobody ever contacted me. I called again in september. Same deal.

    I get a letter saying my return was changed because of information I provided. I didn’t provide anything but again thought it was because of review of the home buyer credit. The refund amount was still the same and everything else matched up. It said it would be 2-3 weeks to get the refund if I hadn’t already received it.

    Come December and I still hadn’t received it so I called again. This time the lady tells me it was direct deposited in early November. I said, uh, no it wasn’t and gave her my account number. It wasn’t even close to the number where they deposited the funds. She asked if I had filed two returns then if I was the victim of identity theft. No and no were my answers. She then send it back to the person who processed the returns for review.

    Things just don’t sound right so I call back. This time I dig for more info. They had a return from someone on the other side of the country and one from me under my SSN. I was able to get the bank info and street name of the other person.

    I really hope this all just means the other person goofed with his SSN or the tax agent entered something in wrong. Because the other return didn’t come in until late March, I’m optimistic it was just a mistake. A thief would want to get it in as soon as possible to beat the real return.

    Never in 7 months had I received any communication from the IRS regarding two returns for my SSN!

    What really gets me about this whole thing is it seems they did figure out my tax return was the correct one since they sent an adjustment letter to me with all my info but instead of mailing a check, they direct deposited it to the account on the other return!!!

    I pay estimated taxes because of my side business. I’ll be sending in my taxes by January 31st with what I owe from now on. This was a special case because of the credits. I always aim for 0 balance.

  75. #75 |  Dear IRS: This Is Why We Hate You | The Agitator | 

    […] So I never got around to updating you on my feud with the IRS. (See here, here, and here). […]