40 Minutes with the IRS


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It seems like every day I come across a new reason to be an anarchist.

I’m trying to buy a condo and to apply for a mortgage I need records from the last couple years. In the past I’ve ignorantly assumed that a massive government financial institution like the IRS would keep better track of numbers than a “stoned slacker” like myself, so I haven’t been saving my tax information. In thirty years my credit union has only made one minor mistake. I figured the IRS would be similar.

I requested my W-2s for ’07 and ’08, and received both transcripts,  each listing one job. In reality, I worked two different jobs in 2008 and three in 2007. (I’m a freelance programmer so moving jobs is normal.) Also, one of the jobs in 2008 gave me two W-2s  because I worked for them at two separate times. Today I spent 40 minutes on the phone with the IRS, and the nice operator told me that they had no records of any of these jobs. She told me my employers never sent the forms, but I find that hard to believe when they had no problem sending the same forms to me.

The scary part is how calm the operator was, as though this was a normal occurance that we just have to put up with. She kind of sounded like she was an Indian outsourcer, which would be ironic, but that’s just speculation. She didn’t offer any avenues of resolution, and didn’t seem to think this was even a problem that needed fixing. I asked her if I was at risk of an audit now, since there’s naturally going to be discrepencies between my spending and income. She didn’t have an answer for that either.

Now, I live in an area with one of the highest crime rates in Seattle and I’ll walk around the streets after midnight with my hood on and my headphones blaring, and being afraid never crosses my mind. This kind of thing, however, scares me. It’s always been one of my greatest fears to be wrongfully convicted of a crime, and to think about how the same system that lost four of my last six jobs is used to prosecute people for tax crimes and money-laundering, sometimes destroying their lives, is just plain terrifying.

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