June 27, 2012


You know how things start out kind of small and then sometimes kind of steam roll? It’s happening to me.
I have become a pen pal. Fifty years ago, when letter writing was a more common way of communication, we had pen pals in school. I suppose it was like Facebook or twitter and other social media, but it was more personal. As communication became speedier, letter writing kind of faded away for most of us.
But because I am not a very bright person, I am now a pen pal with the Internal Revenue Service.
It’s really not my fault but they don’t seem to care. I was the bookkeeper for our hotshot oil field delivery service. We had one employee. One. Now with one employee, even a cowboy with a low IQ should be able to get things done. Right? Wrong.
Each quarter you have to file a form reporting your withholding. Shouldn’t be too hard. I can do this. Last summer, I paid a guy for the last two weeks of one month on the first day of the next month. This created a problem for the IRS that threatens to bring down the U.S. government. You calculate the withholding on the date you write the check, not the days worked. So I underpaid one month and overpaid the next month.
I received a notice that my return was wrong and I would have to file an amended return. Know what I did? I filed an amended return. With the help of a professional tax guy. That should take care of it. Nope. Got a letter saying I had overpaid and would soon be getting three hundred plus dollars back. I did. I thought that was kind of cool, so I wrote them a letter thanking them for their prompt action.
Two months later, I received a certified letter. Have you ever gotten a certified letter that was good news? I thought so. Anyway this letter informed me in big capital letters that this was my second and final notice. They were coming after my firstborn, who’s pretty old now, and all of my physical possessions if I didn’t send them their three hundred plus dollars. This is the money they sent me one month previous.
I got hold of the accountant, took the letter in to him, and with my hand shaking, wrote out a check and mailed it to the Treasury. Case closed. The accountant assured me that I was in the clear. I wouldn’t have to serve time. The tax man wouldn’t be at my door with a court order taking all my stuff. I was so happy.
Friday, I received a letter from the IRS. I have overpaid my withholding by three hundred plus dollars. It will be applied to the next pay period. I have written them and informed them we do not have a next pay period. We sold the business.
The problem now is that I have overpaid them and I received interest on the overpayment! One cent! One darn cent, and they are informing me that I have to report this interest on my taxes!
As the Congress approaches the “fiscal cliff” they keep referring to, I am contemplating what this one cent of unanticipated income will do to me. Maybe it is a trick to get me into a higher tax bracket? Maybe.
One thing I do know, I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that I get another letter saying I made a mistake.