Dealing with the IRS

[Update 6/13/2012: that interest charge that made no sense was eventually removed]

I arrived back from a little traveling, and found an notice from the IRS.  For those not in USA, the IRS is the department of government responsible for collecting taxes.

A message from the IRS is usually not a friendly greeting.  And this one was no exception.  It demanded that I pay up a chunk of money real soon, or else.

I knew something was amiss.  The amount that they wanted was pretty close the amount that I had paid with my tax return.  They didn’t seem to know that I had already paid it.

I had actually paid using EFTPS (electronic fund transfer payment system), which is part of the IRS.  So, okay, you knew this was going to be about computers.

Upon calling EFTPS, I found out that somehow the payment had been credited toward 2012 taxes (due in 2013), instead of 2011 taxes.  I vaguely remember that there was a confusing page, and perhaps I checked the wrong box.  In any case, the EFTPS folk did assure me that the payment had been received on time.

Next a call to IRS.  It’s a different number, because the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.  After a seemingly interminable wait, I eventually talked to a human.  She was able to reconfigure that payment to count toward the correct year.  But she warned me that I still owed.  I asked if that was the penalty for not paying on time.  It was.  She was able to waive that.  After all, I had paid on time.  But there was still interest owed due to the payment being late.  This makes no sense since the payment was made on time.  However, the agent was unable or unwilling to do anything about that.  So now I have to wait for an updated notice, and then probably file a protest.

I can just imagine, if a private business had a confusing page and charged me interest on my payment for the amount of time I was late in reporting that I had checked the wrong box, that business would probably be charged with consumer fraud.  But apparently, the IRS thinks it okay if it does that.

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About Neil Rickert

Mathematician and computer scientist who dabbles in cognitive science.

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