First an admission ...
Due to circumstances that were largely NOT beyond my control (even though I'd love to use that excuse), I just recently filed several years of back taxes. I won't go too far into the mucky details; but basically I had one tax year where I either owed a bit, or was due a refund; depending on whether or not someone was legally considered a dependent. The problem was, I was missing a key piece of information that would help make that determination.
And that's where my "stupid" started ...
Instead of just sucking it up, and paying the high 3 figure amount (really not significant in the big scheme of things) for that tax year, I decided to wait for the documentation, that I expected would allow me to get a refund instead.
Then I got even "stupider" ...
While waiting (and waiting, and waiting, and waiting) for said documentation, I subsequently ass-u-me(d) that it wouldn't be a good idea to file current year returns, since I still had an earlier one I didn't file ... so I "missed" a couple more years.
And here's the really, really, dumb thing. For a few of those years that I skipped, I was due some pretty substantial refunds. (although, I didn't realize it at the time).
I'm not sure why I was so dumb, why I let myself get paralyzed into inaction on a such an important matter.
Part of it is probably just basic human nature ... once you screw up, and you know you've screwed up, it's much easier to simply try to avoid the situation, than to deal with the consequences.
... and speaking of consequences, we're talking about the I. R. frickin S. here. I think I was always probably "just a little" scared of what was going to happen when it all caught up with me.
Anyhow, earlier this summer, I bit the bullet, and took care of the problem by filing "several years" of back tax returns all at one time.
As expected, I owed money for the original year ... + penalties and interest (although not nearly as bad as I thought it might be). For every other year, I was due a refund.
Note: Before I started this process, I called one of those tax trouble businesses who does a lot of advertising on radio and tv. (I won't name them, but you can probably figure out who I'm talking about). They offered to guide me though the whole process ... right after I gave them a credit card #, so that they could charge me about $3,000 !!!
The sad part is, I was so scared of the IRS, that I almost paid it.
Not paying the "no vowels, just savings" people , was about the only Smart decision I made when it comes to this whole ordeal. (although, had I actually owed 10s of thousands of dollars, I do suspect that their services may have been very much worthwhile to me)
Here's the really IRONIC thing though ...
Today was the day that everything is finally wrapped up (my returns are all current, my debts are paid, and a refund is coming my way). I actually just got off the phone with the IRS a little while ago, before deciding to write this post. And I have to tell you ...
Throughout the entire process; from finding the right forms, to getting phone numbers and addresses, and even answering quite a few questions that I had; the people I dealt with on the phone at the IRS were nothing but Friendly, Understanding, and quite honestly (from my perspective) Very Helpful.
In hindsight, what the heck was I so scared of ???
So, that brings me to Todd's Tip for today ...
If you find yourself having tax difficulties, (unless you really have done something questionable or wrong); before you either go into debt paying someone to "help" you, and/or let fear paralyze you into inaction (which could end up being even more costly); pick up the silly phone and call the IRS.
... you might just find yourself pleasantly surprised by the outcome. (and I assure you, even if not "pleasant", the result will most likely be much better than if you wait for them to call you first).
p.s. I'm not terribly sure about the wisdom of sharing this story so publicly. But ultimately, I figured that the potential benefits someone (in a similar situation) may gain from reading about my "stupidness", probably outweigh any possible additional consequences I may be subjecting myself to by sharing (especially since the situation is already resolved).
thumbnail credit:on flickr