The IRS amuses me -- but nobody else is laughing

As much as I hate paying taxes, I am generally on friendly terms with the IRS. Even though I help defend people who have civil and criminal tax problems, I really hold no ill will toward the IRS. Their employees have a job to do. They just enforce the law and process your forms and money.

But sometimes the IRS does silly things that make me shake my head. Take this letter written to my client: Our records show we received your original and amended tax returns on May 08, 2007 and Oct. 22, 2007, respectively. We're sorry but we can't find them, so we need your help to answer your inquiry. Please send us a newly signed copy of your amended tax return.

Translation: We know you sent us your tax returns. We even know on what dates we received them. But we can't find them. Send them again. I have a slight problem with this. If we taxpayers lose our documents and mess up in regard to taxes, we're subject to interest and penalties that are usually fairly large. Yet the IRS doesn't have to be held to the same standard. If they lose our materials, it's our responsibility to fix their problem. Doesn't seem quite fair, does it?

Incidentally, about two weeks later my client got a letter that said they found the tax returns and we should ignore the previous letter. Okay. I guess that's a big "never mind" and we should be glad. And that my friends, is how the IRS both entertains and amuses me.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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