Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tax Evasion

One of the many joys of being an expat is paying your US taxes. I'm writing this while on hold with the IRS. I figured I may as well use the time that would otherwise be flushed down the toilet by the IRS and it's complete inefficiency. Please beware, I'm a bit distracted by playing "name that muzak tune". So far I have heard Feelings and Memories. And neither my feeling or memories of the IRS are positive.

Our taxes have been done and filed and we owe. We always owe. But we've set up an e-payment directly from our checking account. Relief. Done for the year. That is until we get a letter from the IRS saying that there is a discrepancy in our bank account information. Because we live in Morocco and this letter was sent weeks ago we receive it just a couple days before April 15th. So I'm freaking out that I have to get a check to the IRS from Morocco. The "from Morocco part" is pivotal, because getting anything done here is not easy, let alone timely. Especially taxes.

So I go to the US Embassy where we can use the DPO, which is the automated excuse for a real post office. First of all it has weird hours. Even though it's an automated system and even if all goes well and you don't need assistance you do have to hand the package over to an Embassy employee who works there. And second of all, the automated system NEVER, NEVER works properly. EVER.

I don't know if I need to send my envelope certified or registered mail. I can never remember the difference. The people in the mail room don't know the difference either. So I simply check the box that requires a signature on the super user friendly usps.com site. And yes, that was meant to be sarcastic. I go all the way through the system and the label won't print. This always happens. I go to another computer. It still won't print. I make a new label. Finally after 45 minutes and 3 on-lookers later, it prints. I put my check in and send it off. My envelope will be post-marked by the 15th. Whew. Done right?

No. I get home and the usps.com has charged me twice. So I need to go through the simple user friendly usps computer system again to figure out how to cancel and get a refund for the label that never printed. Done right?

A month later when I'm balancing my check book, I see that my IRS check cleared. AND my e-payment with the checking account discrepancy ALSO went through. I hope there is some kind of Super Patriotic American Award that I'm going to receive for paying my taxes twice! Crap. Now I have to try to get my money back from the IRS.

So I call the number that was on the letter the IRS sent me. This of course is not the department I need to call. I don't even know what subset of the IRS this is, but what I need, the lady says, is the Individual Assistance Line. She gives me the number for them. I dial and get a telephone error message of "temporarily unavailable". I ring it 9 more times just to make sure. I get the same message every time.

I call back the original number and inform her that the line is out of service. She does not have another number for them or anyone else who can help me. Of course she's not concerned, I have already paid my taxes. Twice. Now if I owed them money I'm sure someone would have been available to help me. Her suggestion? Call the other number back. Maybe tomorrow the number will actually work.

The great thing is at this point I'm starting to think that if I ever see this money again it's gonna be like we got a refund. I might get a little frivolous with it even and buy some really overpriced splurge item with it. Like a big $5,000 splurge. But who am I kidding? This is crazy talk! Like I'm ever gonna see my money again.

I scour the IRS website which is even more uber user friendly that the usps website. Somehow in that twisted tangle of tax horse shit, I find the number to the International Line for Help. I go through the automated triage system and I end up talking to a real live breathing person who thinks that maybe (she's not sure) she can help me. Hallelujah!

I want my $2! Give me my $2!!!! (Ok, it's WAY more than $2, but I couldn't help the Better Off Dead reference.)

Miracle of miracles! The system shows that I have indeed payed my taxes twice without me needing to send verification via cancelled checks and e-transaction numbers! This tax credit of course freezes my account. This of course is not shocking. The government is not made up to deal with surpluses, only deficits. So the nicest lady in the entire IRS attempts to unfreeze my account so that a check for my overpayment can be sent to me. Of course the mailing address they have on file for me is incorrect. She urges me NOT to correct the address because this will result in all kinds of bureaucratic crap and I completely concur. I am guaranteed to never get that check with a corrected address that doesn't match what is in their records. She has put the request into the computer system to unlock me account. Of course there is no confirmation number that results from this or anything. Again, this is the IRS. There is a waiting period. The computer needs time to thaw my account. Call back in 4 to 6 weeks she says.

But I know what she's really telling me.

I better be content being the Most Patriotic American who paid their taxes twice because I'll probably never see that money again. So let me get this right? If I evade paying my taxes, I get thrown into jail. Now what happens if the IRS owes money and they evade me?


cath said...

Your travails sound like mine. A few years ago the state of California started auto deducting money they said I owed them frome a garage (read car repair) that I operated in the 1970's. I didn't live in California in the 70's I told the state dept. And I am a nurse, not a mechanic. I finally got the payments stopped, but did I get back the money they owe me? No! And they still owe me $400 for a tax refund I was due a couple years ago. I figure I'll never see that money. *sigh*

I feel your pain...
~cath xo
@jonesbabie on Twitter

Dwija {House Unseen} said...

Holy crap. That sucks! I mean, horrible, terrible awful sucking. I would be bawling probably. Likely. for sure.

And can I just give you 25 point right now for yet another beautiful reference that holds a dear place in my heart?

"I want my $2! Give me me my two dollars!!!!!"

The Loerzels said...

How many points until I earn a gum ball? Or a quarter so I can try my chances with the claw?

David said...

Great John Cusak reference!! Classic movie:)

The ineptness of the goverment never surprises me and I certainly don't expect them to help the citizens. I've gone through my own IRS nightmare as an expat living in Europe...sigh. Returning from living there for 18 months the govt claimed I owed lots of money which wasn't true but it took years and tax experts to get them to back off.

Those irs phone numbers are bogus, I believe they dish out wrong numbers for their own merriment lol You'll get your overpayment back one day but don't expect it soon!!


Christina Lucas said...

Get your money back from the IRS? Good luck with that one!

Jen said...

I would like to know how you managed to write all that down without swearing once! I am in great admiration of your calm collective and observant fortitude. I reckon you should stick at it and keep fighting them...where does all the money that gets paid to them by error go to after all?

Anonymous said...

Well, don't give up hope yet. Last year I filed from Morocco and also sent an e-payment. Lo and behold, a few months later, I received a $200 check from the IRS sent all the way to Morocco. I hadn't expected any refund whatsoever so quite a surprise. Cha-ching!

Also, expats don't have to file until June 15th. You can take it a little easier next year.

Zafira said...

Working for a CPA firm here as my day job in the states I feel your pain. As a preparer we even have a "special" phone number to call and my boss curses them!
And if you can only imagine what is worse??? The Virginia state tax department. They would definitely keep your money. Forever.


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