It’s nice to know I’m not the only one that doesn’t trust the Internal Revenue Service or the Franchise Tax Board.
On Tuesday I stopped by the Postal Annex on Industrial Park Drive to complete my annual contribution to fund another year of government madness by sending checks by certified mail with a return receipt.
This is not paranoia on my part. Twice I’ve been burned by eager beaver bureaucrats not over taxes due but over mailing dates and postage.
I willingly fork over $12 a year to send may fair share to Sacramento and Washington, D.C., via San Francisco so I have proof that it was mailed before April 15 and with the proper postage.
My first encounter with byzantine world of bureaucratic logic was in 1988.
The $118 rebate that all taxpayers were receiving because the State of California actually returned a budget surplus after meeting all financial obligations instead of finding ways to spend the windfall on new endeavors was long overdue.
So like a lamb unaware it was about to meet the butchers of logic face-to-face I inquired of the Franchise Tax Board why I hadn’t gotten my rebate. The answer, naturally, came five months later by mail.
I was told in no uncertain terms that since I had mailed in my taxes late the previous year that under the parameters set by then Gov. George Deukmejian and the Legislature I wasn’t entitled to the rebate. Forget the fact this is money they over collected whether they got it a day late, I knew it wasn’t the case.
I had dropped my IRS payment as well as a car payment and DMV renewal that were both due on April 15 along with the Franchise Tax Board check into a mail box in a business park on April 10. Also, the IRS had no issues and the state never dinged me for allegedly being late.
So I called the Franchise Tax Board. I was told in no uncertain terms I paid late but I could appeal the decision by filing a $98 fee for an administrative hearing. If I won, I’d get the fee back plus the rebate. If I lost, I would be out $98 plus have no rebate.
I said there was no need to do that and if they sent me a photocopy of the envelope with the cancellation on it and it was after April 15, I would accept that.
I was told they did not save envelopes due to storage concerns.
I then asked how they could possibly make their case if they didn’t have proof of when the envelope was postmarked. I was told the burden was on me to prove it had been mailed on time.
This prompted me to pen a column the next day in The Press-Tribune. Then Assemblyman Wall Herger, R-Rio Oso, happened to have a copy a day after that he was reading from while lecturing the State Franchise Tax Board’s head honcho at a legislative hearing.
A day later a call was sent into my managing editor’s office where I was in a meeting. He put it on speaker phone to hear the head of the Sacramento Franchise Tax Board ream me out for bringing her boss’ wrath down on her before informing me that I would get the $118 if they went back four years and found I had paid my taxes on time. She ended it with a nice little touch, saying she doubted that would happen since “people like you never pay your taxes on time.”
Let’s just say the next day’s column included mention of a witness hearing the conversation and how the State Franchise Tax Board’s higher ups held taxpayers in contempt. I got my $118 five days later.
My encounter with the IRS came over paperwork I had sent them in Ogden, Utah for an audit by mail.
I had collected four years worth of receipts to prove the Press-Tribune had erroneously reported expense reimbursements as advertising commission. It happened to cover four years where the paper had sent me for three weeks to Mexico, to Provo in Utah for a week, and three days in Colorado Springs to cover athletes we had at the Olympic Training Center and the Air Force Academy. That was in addition to other day-to-day work expenses such as mileage. They claimed I owned the $7,143 in taxes, penalties, and interest.
The mailing was fairly hefty. I had it weighed at the Roseville Post Office where the clerk placed a metered-style stamp on it valued at $1.45 and sent it on its way. Did I mention they had given me just 30 days to gather the information and mail it to them and had beaten the deadline by one day so I could avoid a 10 percent penalty on what they claimed I owed?
A week or so later I got home nice and relaxed from a trip to Death Valley and saw I had a large envelope from the IRS. I thought to myself that was quick until I realized it was what I had sent the IRS and it had come back with two cents due.
A return trip to the post office and I was informed that sometimes envelopes are reweighed at their destination. I didn’t know whether they meant the reweigh was done by the IRS or the post office.
The Roseville postmaster typed a letter explaining the obvious situation that his staff had mis-weighed the package and not me. The IRS accepted the explanation some four months later. Ultimately I was off the hook for everything but $71.26 in interest on a penalty.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.