Muddle for the middle in tax season

Ann Kuehn - Contributing columnist

This is the time of year when my accountant wishes he had listened to his mother and followed a religious persuasion. Actually, it is the time of year when I wish I had done likewise — a retreat to a Himalayan cave, equipped with an espresso machine, would work.

It is, of course, my accountant and my mutual encounter with the IRS et al.

Last year, due to the virus, tax matters were pushed back to the early summer; enough of a pause to thoroughly mix up my always shaky accounting system. Nonetheless, taxes were paid and check cancellations noted.

For reasons known only to the IRS et al, I continue to receive notifications of outstanding penalties. My solution was/is to hand everything over to my accountant. Again, he was the one who chose not to listen to his mother.

January, 2022 produced a letter from the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Ohio assessing me $1,482.80 for “Variance—Calculation Errors or Missing W2 Forms; CRN; DRL; Certification Date 1/02/22. Collection efforts may include liens, attachments, foreclosures, garnishments, sheriff’s dales, lottery winnings (I should be so lucky) … account being turned over to an attorney for litigation …”

Did anyone pay attention that in this case the accused is an 84-year-old single woman on a rather low fixed income, whose only capital asset is a 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser — the speedometer clocking out at 300,000 miles?

I opted to call the Office of the Ohio Attorney General. Any taxpaying American knows these types of calls require an extension cord on the phone so one can practice meditation, run the vacuum, water plants, play AARP free computer bridge — all the while listening to unrecognizable music, punctuated by “Your call is important to us. Please stay on the line for the next available operator. This call may be monitored for quality assurance”.

I began dialing at 8 a.m. and made my choice from the nine button options. Forty-five minutes later there was a person unable to help.

I had selected the wrong button.

But she was kind enough to switch me to someone who possibly could. That gentleman could not explain the $1,4892.80 charge, since he had no way of identifying what the “Variance—Calculations, Errors, Missing W2 Forms …” were.

What choices are there for an 84-year-old-single woman on a rather low fixed income whose only tangible item is a 2005 Chrysler PT Cruiser? My sons suggested ignoring the notification, but mine is of another generation, and being old carries quite enough mental stress.

The Wilmington Savings Bank was, as always, more than helpful in my securing a certified check. Both the teller and I made sure the check followed the correct instructions. It, along with the attached voucher, was whisked by me to the Wilmington Post Office before the scheduled pick-up time of 11 a.m.

We shall see. It was not a scam — other than our whole tax system is a scam; my accountant checked its validity.

Wouldn’t it be nice to think tax discrepancies were not the bane of the American middle class? The rich have loopholes; the desperately poor have handouts; it is we, the muddle in the middle, who pays. This is a historical reality.

When the financial middle class of any society fails, the society as a whole follows.

After talking to the individual at the Office of the Ohio Attorney General, I declined to press the “Please let us know how we are doing” button.

Expletives need not be recorded.

Ann Kuehn resides at Ohio Living Cape May in Wilmington. She says, “I gravitated to Ohio at age 18 and never left” and moved to Sabina in 1987.

Ann Kuehn

Contributing columnist