“This is a question too difficult for a mathematician. It should be asked of a philosopher.”
― Albert Einstein (when asked about his income tax.)
Like all upstanding citizens, when it came time to file our taxes last spring, the wife and I dutifully complied.
I’ve never needed to use a tax attorney, CPA or H&R Block to figure out what we owed or what we’d get back. I’ve never seen a tax form I couldn’t understand and while I might be crap at the higher levels of mathematics – trig and calculus – I can handle everyday arithmetic, thank you, I can add and subtract with the best, because I always use a calculator.
So imagine my consternation when we received our refund from the State, many hundreds less than expected, with an included itemization of how they computed our return. I dug out our copy, diligently – twice – went back over every entry to make sure all the blocks were filled in correctly as needed, and – bless the soul of whoever invented it – confirmed with my calculator that I was right, they were wrong.
I then wrote them a highly formalized, strongly worded response addressing their calculations versus mine and told them to redo their math (I felt like a teacher addressing a careless student).
Lo and behold, earlier this month – six months after I posted my letter – just as I was sitting down to write again and ask them what was taking them so long (and going to offer to lend them my calculator) I get a call, they telling me my figures were correct (and with no apology for their error) and they’d be sending another check for the difference.
Will wonders never cease?
Told them that would be acceptable (and without so much as a “Thank you” from me – I mean, it’s not like they discovered their error and contacted me about it, nor did they sound contrite in the least.) And I didn’t ask, but wanted to, how many other returns they’d shorted so they could earn interest on the difference until they’d been called on it.
And I wondered if (and if so, why) other taxpayers wouldn’t have questioned the state’s calculation and just accepted whatever they did get back, in effect giving the state free money.
But that’d be a question for a philosopher.