It took an encounter with the IRS to help me understand.Uncle Sam

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.

Income-Tax-Refund-Community-Chest-Monopoly-300x177And here they were, telling me that I had made a major calculation error.

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.

This entry was posted in Education, Family, Finance and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

80 Responses to Pride

  1. George says:

    Lol…a thank you note. That’s funny. There’s nothing worse than getting an IRS notice just before the weekend ha d having to wait. It happened to us once but unfortunately the math mistake was on my part. Not surprisingly since I’m terrible at math.

  2. AmyRose🌹 says:

    Ah, I know the “p” word intimately. There are several aspects of me and my Life that I know I am good at, and lately, several events happened that really shook me up, leaving me questioning my abilities. I assessed. Threw away the anger. Threw away the self-righteousness. And sought. Piece by piece, sifting through wanting to know the “lesson”. I concluded I was not wrong, my reactions were, and for me to tread lightly in these circumstances.
    I used to be very good in math, Van, and in fact, my math teacher in high school encouraged me to major in math in college. Like an idiota (young and foolish) I ignored his advice. Today because I really don’t use the math portion of my brain, it has become soggy. I’ve been meaning to sharpen this part of my brain by getting back to math except my Life has been cranked up right now and I have to wait until things slow down. Thanks for the reminder that my brain was par excellent in math and that I truly enjoy it. There is a lot of geometry in my photographs for I consciously seem to “look” for angles and shapes. So I suppose you could say I still am using math just in a different manner.
    Happy Sunday, Van!! ❤

    • From what I’ve witnessed, Amy, there is no part of your brain that could be soggy. There is, for sure, geometry and amazing symmetry in your work, and beauty and balance in your thoughtful words. Happy Sunday to you. 💛 💙 💜

      • AmyRose🌹 says:

        Um when I cannot do simple addition in my head at lightening speeds like I used to be able to, yes, I do have “sogginess”. LOL Bless you for your vote on my behalf that I do still have all my brain intact. Tee hee …. And thank you for supporting my Art. That means more to me then I can put into words. (((HUGS))) ❤

  3. Judy Martin says:

    Happy Sunday Van. I am glad your pride didn’t take a hit, especially as you are aways so careful with your calculations. 🙂

  4. Val Boyko says:

    Being attached to being right has been a hard one for me to let go of Van. I’m hoping its the last lesson as I try to walk a path of humility 💛
    Love this post … and love that you are an imperfect human (yep!) just like me and the IRS.

  5. I would have felt the same way. Because I pride myself on taking my time, being careful, doing a good job and that makes it personal! Luckily my sister is a CPA and does my taxes!

  6. Victo Dolore says:

    Ha! I completely understand this post. 🙂

  7. Joyful2bee says:

    What a scary experience! And what a lesson! I like life stories like this. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Erika Kind says:

    Congrats on your math skills, Van, and on your determination of wanting to understand where the error was buried. So glad you got confirmed in your calulation!

  9. lbeth1950 says:

    This leaves me totally amazed. I can’t imagine taking on the IRS. What a woman. I admire you.

  10. and you’re still getting a refund! bonus! ❤
    Diana xo

    • Yep. Still a refund. There were other complications, on how our insurance subsidy was reported. But they are working that out. I don’t really care. We feel vindicated. sigh…💝

  11. How cool that you had that little insight, Van. I do my own taxes too. I figure if the directions are too complex or vague that’s their fault, not mine. (Oh dear, I just discovered my quality is Spite – Ha ha) Unfortunately, when I get letters from the IRS, they’re always right 😦

  12. What a good outcome (we fear the worst with the IRS)

  13. jan says:

    I’ve had my own problems with the IRS – you were extremely lucky to get a real live human being. Generally computers handle everything! If I were good at math, I’d certainly be proud of it!

    • You make a good point, Jan. And it was never clear to us how the error happened. Hard to believe that a computer glitch would have transferred a non-taxable amount into the “income” column ??? Not sure we’ll ever know. ☺ Thanks.

  14. Congratulations on being in the right. I loved the Monopoly card. I hadn’t seen it in years.

  15. Thumbup says:

    You’re too humble! I would be cackling at them right there on the phone!

  16. Just Plain Ol' Vic says:

    They might go up in flames getting a thank you note…..on second thought, that may not be the worst thing that happens! 😉

  17. LaVagabonde says:

    We all need to be humbled from time to time, but that must have been nerve-wracking! Good to hear it turned out okay for you.

  18. Hi Van
    I have a situation, in the post. I walk with a cane. It has a big changed, It learned, TSA are not near as means. A young screener, ask me to step to side. She calls for a Supervisor, I’m still without my cane, she calls for a Supervisor with Cancer patients. She assumed ? How she thinks? Who knows. The initial screener
    Asked me to go to have more privacy. NO WAY! I not going in private, my first trip to DC, I was flaming. I ask her to be softer if she would be gentle. NO her Idea was to push on my
    I don’t can’t think about going, for 2 years.
    Have a great day.

    • I’m sorry they made this so difficult for you, M. You were, no doubt, already stressed out about the treatment. But 2 years is a long time to wait, if the treatment helped you at all ? Thinking about you. 💕

  19. TanGental says:

    I have a similar problem with ego getting in the way at times, though that is tempered but my appreciation of my own incompetence. I suppose I’m an optimistic egoist. Not actually a good combination as both pride- and pratfalls tend to follow. Glad you weren’t out of pocket.

    • Ha. Oh, no… not pratfalls, Geoff. ☺ And I do get the ego getting in the way, but in my case, it’s always over such bizarre things… like arithmetic ! Thanks.☺

  20. That is awesome! You should have pride dear Van! you are really very smart and talented in so many ways!

  21. Ah, pride. One of the seven deadly sins…, and yet we all experience it from time to time, sometimes over something as easy as math. I did two tax forms for other people, and these two came to me, with a check of a lower amount, and an explanation as to why. It wasn’t until I followed my steps through the form, that once again, dyslexia had struck again, turning two of the numbers around on their forms. 😛

  22. joey says:

    Haha! That’s the best IRS story ever! I can money math, but really, all the tax forms just scare me. My husband works in finance, so he maths well, and is not scared of details, but he messed up in 2001 and since then, we pay for a service.
    Good for you, mathing right and being proud! You should be proud! 😀

  23. Prior-01 says:

    the line from the scarlet ibis noted that “pride is a wonderful, terrible thing” – and i enjoyed your post – even though I wonder what kind of tax return you could have for the van by the river life (just kidding!!!)

  24. Michael says:

    It takes a certain gift to see the moment for what it offers like that. I work with numbers a lot and there is nothing to get me off-center like staring down the barrel of a mistake on something I’ve checked twice. Of course, I’m not always fortunate enough to be right, so then that pride becomes quite a pill! Ha! Every moment is so amazing…


  25. amommasview says:

    Hurray! Good on you and proud you can be!

  26. Laura says:

    My pride has triggered many, many sneak attacks on me. I think it’s a good thing overall — it drives me to be better — but it also makes it easier to see things out of proportion. Let’s just say I’m working on making it a source for good. 😏

  27. I wonder why it seems my breathing was held as I read this, then I laughed at the end of it all. I think after the Devil, the IRS is one dreaded figure even when you are absolutely right. They are always on the look out for nitty gritty cents and who to rope it.

  28. Dealing with the IRS is stressful. I’m so happy everything turned okay! 🙂

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