It's been over two weeks since I last spoke with Misty. She requested that I find out if the IRS had received my 2011 1040, so she could put in another request for the transcript. I hadn't filed a 2010 1040 because I thought that my income had been under the threshold required for filing, so she also requested that I send her my Schedule C, the business Profit or Loss Statement. I emailed the information to her on March 6 but hadn't heard anything back. I did call the IRS and everything checked out for 2011, so I thought we were okay with that.
In the mean time I received a bill from the IRS for my 2011 taxes, including hefty fines for failing to file and failing to pay, plus interest. Included with the bill was a sheet addressing Sandy victims, stating that the IRS might be able to help! (Yes, I've heard that one before.) So I called the IRS and told them that because of the losses from Hurricane Sandy and the fact that my business was destroyed, I am unable to pay my tax bill. The rep I spoke with went over my options- I could either set up a payment plan or request that my account be put on hold until I can pay. In both cases interest would continue to accrue. I asked if the penalties and interest could be waived because, after all, I was a Sandy survivor. He told me that he might be able to waive the penalties but not the interest, but any decision would be based on my history with the IRS. I should point out that 2010 was the first year in 30 years of filing taxes that I've ever been late. The rep noted that I had requested an extension, but then failed to file. I explained to him that my income had been lower than the amount required to file, but he told me that since I was self-employed, I was still required. I went back and checked the 1040 instructions and sure enough- buried down on Chart C, Other Situations When You Must File, condition #3: You had net earnings from self-employment of at least $400. And this is why people pay professionals to do their taxes.
On Monday I filled out the blank copies of the tax forms I had kept on hand in case something like this happened, brought them to the post office and off they went to Kansas City. The IRS rep told me that once they received my return, I might be able to get the penalties removed from my bill. I had filed my New York State 2011 taxes the week before, and was also charged late fees. Since the amount was more reasonable I paid my bill minus the fees, and will contest those fees once the State receives my return, as instructed by one of their tax reps.
Today I called the SBA to find out the status of my application. Misty had never received the information I sent her- I had missed the dot between her first and last names in the email address I used. And this is how things go. Two weeks after requesting information from me, which she never received, and she never bothers to find out why. Because this woman has so many applications to process, she barely remembers my case when I call her with questions about it. And my application had fallen into some inactive state when it was discovered that two of the four years of tax returns they requested from the IRS were unavailable. So since Misty barely remembered my case, I had to refresh her on what document I had been trying to send her. And at this point she asked me- did I file a 2010 tax return. And now I was telling her yes, I had filed the return earlier this week. So now we have to start the whole thing over again. And since it's tax season, it might take a month for the 2010 transcript to get to her. So I should go to my local IRS office and request that they time stamp my copy of the 1040. And if they can do this, I should send a copy of this time-stamped 2010 return to her. And this will reactivate my application, although Misty might or might not be assigned to my case after my request for reconsideration.
But wait- there's more! I had planned for today to be a day of accomplishment. This morning I sat down with my phone and list of calls to make. How is it that by the end of the day I felt worse instead of better? How is it after almost five months of near full-time attention to collecting some kind of disaster relief, I've gotten no more than what FEMA considers to be one month's rental assistance, and eleven weeks of unemployment at third-world country rates? But yes, the President and the Governors and the Mayors will tell you that they are doing everything they can to help Sandy victims recover from this crisis.
On my list of calls to make was one to Time Warner. Although our apartment was completely destroyed on October 29, they continued to charge us for internet for November, December and January. And since I was set up for automatic bill pay, the amounts for November and December had been deducted from my bank account. On my first call to them I was told these amounts would be refunded once we returned our modem. One of the last errands we did before leaving Brooklyn was to drive to the Time Warner office and return the modem. I was told that we would be receiving a $25 check in the mail as a refund of the deposit we had paid for it. Would you be surprised to know that we never received the refund for the modem, nor for the months we were overcharged? So back on the phone I go to Time Warner. And again I am told that I will be receiving a check in the mail. Months go by, no refund, Bryan swings through Brooklyn on his way back from JFK one day, and he returns with some mail that had come to Derrick and Pamela's apartment for us. And oh, what's this? An envelope from Time Warner? Maybe it's a refund check? WRONG! It's a statement for January, in which they have credited the amount for the returned modem against a partial month of service. SAY WHAT? So back on the phone I go, and this time I remain calm. Because this is my new approach. Don't freak out Mollie, don't get angry. State your case calmly and this time you might get through to them. And on March 4 I spoke with a very capable-sounding customer service rep who seemed to get what I was saying. And on top of the over-charges, he was going to give me a credit for Sandy victims. And within a week I would receive a check. So here I am two and half weeks later, and where's my check? Back on the phone today- yes, I would be receiving a check, but what the last rep told me was wrong. He was wrong- the check wouldn't take one week, it would take four to six weeks. Yup. This is Time Warner's latest answer- my check should arrive by April 19, but could arrive sooner because it is in process.
Okay, those aren't the only calls I made today but I'll leave it here for now. Bleh.