Archive for July, 2013

A Rare Day in June

watermelon starsOne week into official summer, and it is such a lovely Thursday morning. Our non-functioning air conditioner becomes a non-factor, as heat and humidity give way to moderated temperatures and cool breezes. I feel especially well, and especially eager to dive into the day ahead. With a prayer of thanks for the ability, the agility, and the opportunity to put in several miles of brisk skip-walking before breakfast, I head outside with my loyal pup, into the verdigris lushness left behind by our remarkably rainy non-spring.

Above us, long, narrow, horizontal stretches of cloud, stacked six-high with spaces in between, like schmears of marshmallow cream. A sort of frothy stairway to heaven. As close to the poet Lowell’s earthly “perfection” as it gets.

Next, a leisurely breakfast of whole grain cereal, almond milk, fresh blueberries, and a bite or two of tender grilled tilapia for protein – another blessing I try very hard not to take for granted. Sighs of satisfied gratitude, and it’s time to get some work done in the office.

Soon comes the daily postal delivery, dropped with a thud into our locking mail box and loudly announced to me by a highly indignant pooch who cannot, for the life of her, understand why that uniformed marauder insists on attempting to break into our home day after day after day.

Pulled from my work at the keyboard, I soothe the dog, retrieve the mail, and sort through a huge pile of unsolicited solicitations. Plop, plop, plop, piece after piece gets deposited directly into the recycling bin. But wait. There’s a window envelope. Better have a look at that one. And wait, again. This one comes from the IRS. That’s hardly ever good news, at least not to the guy who actually pays his taxes in this land of the payers-in and the takers-out.

By the time I round up a letter opener, my heart is lodged in my throat. As an isolated moment of terror, something seems terribly wrong about this. The Internal Revenue Service is a huge, enormously powerful arm of a huge, enormously powerful central government, in a country once proudly defined as “a new nation, conceived in liberty.” Authority administered “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” it seems to me, should not strike such shock, dread, and horror in the hearts of its law-abiding citizens.

But clear the head, shake it off; expect not the worst until you know what you’re dealing with. I rip into the envelope marked POSTAGE AND FESS PAID IRS PERMIT NO. G-48, grumbling, “We paid that postage, not the IRS,” whip out the seven pages of inserts printed on both sides, take a deep breath, and peek with one open eye at the Proposed changes to your Form 1040 of Notice CP2000 for Tax Year 2011.

“Amount due: $18,157.00.” Gasp and choke. Probably more like gasp, gasp, gasp; choke, choke, choke.

In general, I am not a swearing woman. I think I probably had a lapse of that resolution in those first stunning seconds after my whiplashed sense of reason finally concluded, “No; it doesn’t read ‘$181.57’…” I can’t recall exactly; the moment is a blank in my memory. But I suspect it was a very bad lapse. Forgive me.

Now, I know my household leans strongly and consistently to the conservative side of things. And I know the IRS has hit lists for groups with such leanings. But surely we are small potatoes in that boiling pot. And where in the world did this figure possibly come from, in a household living on Home Depot wages, prematurely-tapped Social Security benefits, and quickly dissipating retirement savings?

Get a cold glass of water. Drink it slowly. Breathe deeply. Let your mind regroup and your vision clear. Has to be a mistake.

Did I say “mistake”? Make that a desperately indebted, massively out of control federal regime-sized blunder. Fortunately, I am too many miles away to inflict on the sloppy data-enterer at 5045 East Butler Avenue in Fresno, California, the punishment my screaming brain envisions at this moment of realization. Fortunate for both of us. But then I should be careful, too, what I say here. If you’re listening in Big Bro: Just kidding, heh, heh.

What appears to have happened is this: When my father’s estate got settled a few years ago, my husband and I paid off some long-term debts and invested the remainder of the non-taxable inheritance amount as a promissory note with our church body – a safe, sound, financial move based on their need for capitol to make much-needed improvements to deteriorating structures at their synod-sponsored college and seminary in Eau Clair, Wisconsin.

According to the very human drones in the IRS beehive, this entire amount got reported to them on form 1099INT. Even I know that form 1099INT is for reporting interest. If the entire amount of our investment is being called “interest” by the Infernal Revenuers, then yes, I’m sure it looks to them like we underpaid. But it ain’t so, and I sure do resent all the time and energy I am going to have put into trying to convince them of that. Then there’s the ruination of this idyllic day, and at least one anxiety-ridden weekend until I hear back from the Church’s financial secretary.

I am a duck. Let it roll it off my back. Flip through the Yahoo news for a little light distraction. Watermelon Oreos. What is this world coming to? Kardashian baby name top news? Pul-leeze.

I look for other distraction. A 17-minute kick boxing workout releases some pent-up steam. Then, warm corn tortillas topped with a pile of seasoned, sautéed shrimp and a few dollops of guacamole; some homemade refried black beans on the side. And for desert, my own fruity innovation: overripe watermelon whipped to a pulp in the food processor, then frozen to slush stage. Nice and cool and refreshing, as outdoor temps climb to a humid 85+ and the indoor fans have trouble keeping up.

Meanwhile, the A/C repair guy comes out. Costs us $89.99 to have him push the reset button on the outside unit. Pass me some more watermelon slush, and let us pray that this IRS mess isn’t just another outrageous money-gathering scheme which counts on terrified tax payers simply writing out a check rather than risking the infamous wrath of our nation’s Chief Financial Ogres. Hey, John Locke: You go, guy.

“Whenever the power that is put in any hands for the government of the people…is applied to other ends, and made use of to impoverish, harass or subdue them to the arbitrary and irregular commands of those that have it; there it presently becomes tyranny.”

July 3, 2013 at 4:20 pm 2 comments

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