Hominy & Hash
THE SECOND THING YOU CAN COUNT ON: TAXES
by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- The first thing, of course, is death, and if what we've always heard - "The only two things you can count on are death and taxes" - then the longer I live, the more I realize it's true. We will die and we will pay taxes!
Personally, I've never filed a Federal Tax Form (1040) in my life. I went straight from the single girl's EZ 1040 form to filing jointly with my husband and that merely required my signature. And, although my knowledge is scant, I've been around enough April 15ths to know what happens if you don't pay what they consider your just due.
About 15 years ago, the Internal Revenue Service sent an amended, corrected, form back to us saying we hadn't paid taxes on an X amount lump sum we'd received during that tax year. No, problem, thought my husband, and returned the form explaining he had already paid the taxes on said dollar amount.
Not so fast, said the IRS. We say you owe it and you will pay it. No way, said John, and he didn't pay it and said he wouldn't pay it because he was right.
Within days, our bank account was frozen. No action. Checks we had written were all returned from this "closed" account and we could do nothing. The government did not take the money out of the account but we couldn't use what we had. Our mortgage payment was not automatically drafted, we would soon be in jeopardy with all our monthly accounts. I called the Philadelphia office of the IRS and after explaining our plight to a very nice, grandmotherly representative, I heard her speak in soft, dulcet tones and say: "Pay it Mrs. Daley."
"Excuse me?" I said, not sure if I heard her correctly.
"Pay it. You can file claims and you will get responses but if you don't pay it, they will come in to your home and take your furniture, your car, anything and everything to satisfy what they consider your debt." Her conversational tone was reassuring, I trusted her. She referred to her boss, the IRS, as "they." She was on my side. But, whether soft and dulcet or harsh and demanding, the message was to "pay it."
And so we did. The amount was large enough to balk ($2,000) but small enough not to hire a lawyer whose fee would probably exceed that just to get us our own money. The check went to the IRS along with a letter protesting having to pay taxes on a lump sum that already had been taxed. And, that was the end of it.
The end of it, that is, until three years later. Some things never change and the familiar green check in the small manila envelope had the look of REFUND written all over it. The face amount of $3,500 was made out to us as filing jointly and classified as a refund for overpaid taxes.
There was no cover letter; no personal signature of someone we could track down and say: "I told you so." No apologies for the strong armed tactics used to persuade us to pay up or else. But, we liked the refund and we especially liked the accrued interest -- a higher amount than we would have received if the money had been sitting in the bank.