Yesterday was an exercise in futility. Literally.
In my ongoing quest to receive my tax refund . . . you know, that loan of many dollars that the government got because my taxes were deducted for 6 people and not 5 in my family . . . I might as well have shoved an icepick into my forehead. It would have been less painful.
Let me start by answering your criticisms now. Yes, I know that going to the IRS and thinking that I might actually get a favorable outcome is like the crazy person doing the same thing over and over again and wondering why the outcome is never different. Yes. The agency by nature is designed to be maddeningly inept, frustrating and just plain ridiculous. That said, I thought I had done my absolute best to avoid the stupidity.
When I filled out my tax return there were forms. It’s not like they have a box that you can check that says “I was married but now I’m not, but it’s not a divorce she died.” There is, though, a change of status form. There’s also a deceased spouse for those filing jointly section. I did everything but send them a certified copy of Andrea’s death certificate . . . which I should have done now in hindsight. I even e-filed just so that I could get the refund – which was substantial.
But you see, I might as well have waited until April 15th at 11:59 and gotten in line with all the knuckleheads at the post office.
The IRS initially said I’d get my refund on April 22nd. Then it changed to the 27th. Then . . . the date simply disappeared. When I called them – which is like opening up a SKYPE line to the 5th circle of hell, by the way – it took nearly 40 minutes for someone to answer. I actually wrote an entire sweeps piece while hold was on the speaker. The lady on the other end first apologized profusely and then proceeded to tell me that I’d really filed on April 6th, Not the end of March. Even though I have everything on the computer showing when the forms were transmitted and the IRS “accepted” them. It would take 3-4 weeks after that.
The following week I get a letter from the IRS. It was addressed to “Dave Manoucheri . . . Andrea Manoucheri decesased spouse.” Literally, on the envelope. My kids got it from the post office box. That was a fun night. The letter? “We received and processed your return. Upon review, we believe there is sufficient missed deductions and we’re adjusting the return to add $500 to your refund.” That’s awesome! The letter says I should get it in 3-4 weeks.
In 3 weeks, I called again.
“There must have been some change in your status,” was the lady’s response.
“Ummm . . . yeah. That’s an understatement.”
“What do you mean?”
“My wife passed away. I filled out all the forms and everything they asked for.”
“Oh. . . that must be why.”
“What must be why.”
“They flagged this for a manual refund so they have to send you a check in the mail.”
“OK, but they knew all this I got a letter. When will it get here?”
“Well, they are a little busy. I’m sorry sir, but it shouldn’t be more than 4 weeks latest. It’s usually less than 2.”
In two weeks I called again. This time a man on the other end said:
“I just don’t understand why they haven’t processed this. It’s on the person’s desk the computer says.”
“Can you just go ask them why?”
“No, I have to send a form upstairs to that department and try to speed up the process. I fax it to them.”
Now, bear in mind, they both apparently work for the IRS. No email, no phone call, they fax the paperwork. You know, because the Internal Revenue Service building is actually a rip in the space-time continuum that sends you back to 1992!
“I’ll send this, sir, and hopefully they will speed it up. I’m very sorry.”
This is the new IRS, apparently. Make empty apologies.
So today I made the girl on the other end cry. Not with the story of my family because I finally lost it. I haven’t been this mean since I made an intern on my floor crew cry in 1994.
But the reason is this: when I called today, the girl on the IRS help line – again, the system to get to the 5th circle of hell in 1992 is delayed, apparently, and I had to wait 40 minutes again. I think they just pick that timeframe and then figure if you’re dumb enough to stay on the line they answer.
“Well, sir, we’ve done all we can.”
This is where I started to lose it.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, they sent the contact letter to the department that does the manual refunds and that is all we can do. But you should get a date that they’ll process your file and start the check in 30 days at most.”
“30 Days?! It’s been 3 months already!!!!!”
“I understand that, sir, and I agree it’s unacceptable, but that’s how it works. I very sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry, do something about it! You’re not really sorry, you just aren’t doing anything!”
“I know, sir, but that’s just the way it works.”
“Um, you work for the same freaking agency! ”
“I know, sir, but you see your change in status makes it so we have to cut you a manual check that is in your name only.”
“Yes, and that’s typing numbers in a computer and hitting print!”
“I know, sir . . . ”
“I mean, you get how ridiculous that is, right? I have waited 3 months. Now I have to wait a 4th to maybe get a date that they might process my file and may type the numbers in a computer. Not the date I get the money, but the date you finally take it off the goddamn stack of paperwork, right?!”
“Well, yes. . . ”
“And all this, because my wife died. You get that you’re penalizing me just because my wife passed away. If I’d lied and just filed the goddamn return unchanged this wouldn’t have happened right?”
“Well, no, but that would be. . . ”
“So I have to wait until July and even then there will be some other goddamn excuse. I needed this money to help with expenses, tuition, a goddamn gravestone!”
Here’s where I made her cry.
The thing is, I don’t even feel bad. You see, I know she’s the $5.00 and hour kid who answers the phone. But there was NO attempt to help. Just to apologize and placate. Get him off the phone. Follow script. When I asked to talk to someone higher up I was told there was nobody. When I said not to fix blame but fix the problem they said there’s no problem, it’s just the way it works.
And that’s the problem.
4 months for a tax refund that if it had been a tax debt the IRS would be booting my car and confiscating my Clapton Strat in order to get their freaking money.
So here I sit, the first time I’m really feeling like, beyond that first few weeks last year, that I’m penalized for Andrea dying . . . and it’s not her or my fault. It’s that out of control feeling that you can’t stop.
That, or maybe it’s just that it’s a lot harder climbing up from the 5th to the 4th circle of hell. Maybe that rip in the space-time-continuum will still be there. I’ve got some mistakes from high school I want to avoid.