2006.11.22 Cake, file and stamps handy with opening mail

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

It’s getting so I’m afraid to open my mail anymore. At least mail from government entities. A few weeks ago, I received a letter from the Department of the Treasury, asking me to supply them with the address of my Aunt Liz. They even provided me with a form and return envelope, although it was unstamped.

Buying my own stamp, though, was the least of my dilemma, since Aunt Liz was killed in an accident almost four years ago. You’d think the government would know that. They did manage to track down a relative, me, even though we lived 500 miles apart and had different last names. It’s amazing that they could pull off this bit of detective work and not know she was dead.

I had thoughts of returning the form with a simple statement like, “She’s living with Jesus, but I don’t have His mailing address.” Or maybe just make up an address like “123 Pearly Gates Lane, in care of St. Peter,” but I suppose that’s just asking for trouble. Instead, I called the person who sent the letter and explained that Aunt Liz was dead. She didn’t seem the least bit surprised, just thanked me for calling. I still have no clue why they wanted her address.

A mere week later, I received another letter, this one from the Ohio Department of Taxation. This one was just as strange as the one from the Treasury Department folks. My friends in Columbus informed me that they have recalculated my 2005 Ohio income tax return and I owe them money, which they now would like me to pay, with interest. Their envelope didn’t have a stamp, either.

The problem is, I don’t owe them any money. I owed no additional money toward income taxes for 2005, but did have a use tax liability, which I paid when I filed my return back in April. They even showed this payment correctly on their  form, but then applied it incorrectly as an advance 2006 payment on their adjustment section, resulting in my bill for nonpayment of taxes I actually paid seven months ago.

When I called to attempt to straighten this out, I was eventually connected to, and I realize this is almost a contradiction in terms, a helpful government employee. She listened to my explanation, took about a minute to look over my case and agreed I was right. I thought to myself that this was going too well to be true, when she said getting it straightened out would be the hard part.

She said paying the use tax when I didn’t have an income tax liability was what caused the problem, adding something about my honesty was now turning around and kicking me in the rear. She had had a similar case before, but couldn’t recall at the time how she had fixed it. Since she was going on vacation the next week, she promised to call me after she got back and resolved the matter. She even gave me her full name in case I needed to call back, which was a bit of a surprise.

After hanging up, I realized that the elections were being held the next week and depending on which side of the fence the woman was on, she might not be coming back from vacation. I should have asked her who she wanted me to vote for.

A day or two after the election, I received another letter (and another unstamped envelope) almost Identical to the first, except it was demanding a few pennies additional interest. I restudied the part that said unpaid accounts were turned over to the Ohio Attorney General’s office for collection and tried to remember if I had voted for the new attorney general. I then considered shopping for a file and tried to decide what flavor cake I wanted it baked inside.

But last Wednesday, I returned home and had a phone message from the tax office lady. Not only had she obviously survived the election upheaval in Columbus, she said she had finally managed to zero out my tax account for 2005. Imagine that, I won’t have to be looking for a tax attorney after all.

So even though things seem to have worked out, I’m still looking for a good cake recipe and file to go with it. You never know what might come in tomorrow’s mail. All I know for sure is that I’ll have to provide my own stamp.

    -November 22, 2006 

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