It is my personal issue, my “seventh deadly sin.”
We received a letter that challenged our tax return. Expecting a refund, we instead owed them money, based on a mathematical error.
I have always done our tax returns. It was a conscious decision.
I enjoy the challenge. I maintain the files, do the initial calculations. We both verify the math. It has worked so far.
The IRS notice arrived on Saturday. It made no sense. We could not interpret their analysis, did not find a math error, did not understand the figures presented.
We stewed over it until Monday morning. We were surprised to get a “live” agent on the phone, a human being, within 5 minutes. He was courteous, patient, accommodating.
He went over our return line by line. And there it was. There was for sure an error in calculation, but it was their error.
At that exact moment, I could feel my blood pressure drop, my heartbeat slowing.
We both immediately relaxed, smiling at each other.
And that’s when I had my “light bulb” moment.
It was never about owing money. It was not about the possible audit referenced in the letter. It was not that we were talking to the IRS tax law department.
It was about pride.
I am good at math, always have been. I take pride in attention to detail. I monitor our bank account, balance a budget. We both manage financial investments, follow stock market trends.
Almost to a fault, I respect money. I’m pretty good with it.
As soon as I found out that it was their mistake, I would have been alright with terminating the phone conversation.
I know there was a follow-up. I pretty much didn’t hear any of it.
It wasn’t my mistake. And that’s all I heard.
Pride. It has been there all along.
And it took an IRS encounter to help me understand a little bit more about myself.
I might write them a thank you note.