Yesterday I spent almost three hours of prime work time addressing the mess produced by someone who didn’t bother to do his or her job.
My business is legally organized as a Subchapter S Corporation. This type of business doesn’t pay taxes on profits; the profits flow through to the shareholders’ personal income, and taxes are paid via their personal tax returns. (You got that, right? The taxes are paid. There’s no evasion.)
The deadline for business tax returns is a month earlier than for personal returns. This year the deadline was March 15. Submit a return even the morning after, and you’re delinquent. The current fine is $195 — just for being late, even though no actual payment is due with the return. I take these deadlines seriously.
For Postal submissions the IRS goes by the postmarked date. I always send tax forms by Certified Mail and keep the receipts in a special OCD section of my office desk. So I was miffed last Saturday when I received a late filing notice and a demand for $195. What the <bleep> was up?
Monday morning I called the phone number on the notice and waited on hold for 20 minutes. (This is always a good opportunity to check email, Instagram, etc.) At minute 21 I explained the situation to the staff person, who said they had received the return on March 26. Again: The date of receipt is not the date of legal record in this case. What matters is the date of the postmark…which someone had not bothered to note on my return.
“Can you fax me a copy of the mailing certificate while we’re on the phone?” she asked. We don’t use fax anymore, so I could not. They don’t accept email; nor can they accept a fax of the certificate once the call has ended.
“Make a copy of page one of the form we sent and send it to the address on the form with a copy of the mailing certificate,” she told me.
“So,” I replied. “I realize you must get an ear-full from most callers, but what is the point of a businessperson going to the trouble and expense of sending these returns via Certified Mail if your colleagues aren’t going to note the date of the postmark?” I mean, that is the ENTIRE POINT of Certified Mail.
She said something along the lines of ‘for what it’s worth, I agree with you.’ Because really, who wouldn’t? This is a case of blatant negligence — a tiny oversight on the part of an employee, but one that ended up costing me nearly as much in lost shop time as the fine they were demanding I pay.
I will not pay such fines when they are not actually due. It’s a matter of principle. I see a creeping trend on the part of powerful institutions toward using them as a kind of extortion. “Hey, it’s going to cost you more to sort this out than to pay it, so be a chum and just write the check.”
At midday I drove to the nearest copy place, several miles east of my shop. I could have sent the forms back from there, but again, I wanted to send them by Certified Mail. That means going to a Post Office. There are only two Post Offices in Bloomington, both several traffic-choked miles away, so I turned around and drove ten miles in the opposite direction, to the tiny burg of Stanford, where I waited in line while the clerk called her supervisor for detailed help with a printer malfunction that had produced an unusable postal order for the customer in front of me.
I think I may invest in one of those all-purpose printers that copy, scan, and fax. I used to have one, but when it broke (after less than five years) I decided to go back to basic black and white printing in the hope that a simpler bit of electronic equipment would be more long-lived.
Sometimes contemporary life is absurd.