January 23, 2012

A unique tax error?

This is truly astonishing. I seem to be the only person on the internet who has received a particular form letter from the State of Illinois, or at least, the only one to talk about it.

The situation itself was pretty astonishing to begin with. I filed my 2010 taxes on time, in April 2011, and two months later got a "Return Correction Notice" from the state of Illinois about how I'd claimed a bunch of estimated payments (line 25) that I'd never made, so they zeroed that out and now I owe them a bunch of money. Um, I said. Looking back at the form, which I had kept a scan of, I clearly wrote an amount of withholdings (on line 24). I called them up and explained this, but apparently nothing could be done over the phone despite the fact that they actually had the actual original form and could presumably see that this was a simple data entry error; I had to mail them a letter "with documentation". Fine.

They apparently didn't get around to reading it for three months, because I didn't actually get my refund until September (thank goodness I'd had them send a check instead of direct deposit... the USPS forwarded my check to Virginia, no telling what would have happened if the bank deposit bounced). Fine, whatever; I deposited it.

So then this week I get an "Erroneous Refund Letter"---note, four months after they mailed me my check---telling me they shouldn't have allowed the withholding because it included out-of-state withholdings, which I was supposed to file a Schedule CR for.

This is strange for at least three reasons. One, I did file a Schedule CR. Two, and more importantly, the amount on line 24 doesn't include my Ohio income; there is clearly no computer verification of this letter/error/process, because if you add my two Illinois W-2s, you get the amount that I claimed to have been withheld. Three, if you do an internet search for "Erroneous Refund Letter", which is the actual title of the letter, all that comes up is Federal stuff; if you add Illinois to the query, there's just one (spurious) link. Apparently either nobody's received this letter before, or else somehow nobody's ever talked about it online. Mind-boggling.

(Less mind-boggling, but somewhat entertaining, is the paragraph that begins, "Our records show this refund has been cashed." You think? Might that be because you mailed it to me four months ago?)

So now I get to send them a second correction letter, pointing out that my original return was correct as it stands, thank you very much. I mean, it's great that they're checking their records for fraud, I guess, although I'm not exactly a high-roller here (above the median income, though, so I suppose that's something). But they've clearly spent a bunch of person-hours on this case---and burned even more of my time---for issues that are nothing but a waste of everyone's time. Argh.

(Meanwhile I'm also playing telephone tag to track down a mortgage payment; Bank of America sold my mortgage to another bank, marvelous timing, and I got a helpful call from the new bank that my January payment was missing. Thank goodness for federal rules that mandate a 60-day ironing-out period where payments sent to the old bank on time can't be assessed late fees even if the old bank is slow about forwarding the payment, but still, more of my time burned. Just when I have so much time to deal with it.)

"I can see where it's heading: a service called Google Assault that doesn't even bother to guess what you want, and simply hurls random words and sounds and images at you until you dribble all the fluid out of your body." --Charlie Brooker

Posted by blahedo at 12:21am on 23 Jan 2012
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