Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Hey Big Bill Richardson: Thanks for That $84. Really.

Remember that energy rebate?

The Bill Richardson I'm Presidential Material Energy Rebate?

The Golly, Here's A Few Bucks, Now Stop Complaining About High Energy Prices Before I Kick Your Ass Rebate?

Well that energy rebate is still kicking my ass. You see, I do/did my taxes online. As part of the state return, the folks at Turbo Tax plugged in a handy/dandy question about whether one had claimed his/her Bill Richardson Energy Rebate. Yes, I know "claim" is a weird choice of word when you consider the check just arrived, unrequested, in the mail. Anyway, I clicked "yes, I claimed it", and moved on.

Weeks later, I received a letter from New Mexico Taxation and Revenue. The letter claimed I hadn't claimed the BRER (Bill Richardson...). It said I owed another $84 because of this (although strangely, the letter proclaimed in bold letters "THIS IS NOT A BILL").

I then did what any self-respecting NM taxpayer would do. I ignored the letter for six weeks. Actually, I ignored it for another reason, a reason that leads to a Anna Karenina length story about IRAs and other information so arcane, so obscure that your head would explode in boredom if you read it. So, in sum, I let it set for six weeks.

Until today. I called NM Tax and Rev and told them my story. Almost immediately the very helpful gentleman from Tax and Rev started chuckling. You never know what to think when the Tax & Rev guy starts chuckling. He tells me that this little hiccup is a well-known problem with online returns this year. He commiserates when I tell him I could have sworn I clicked the right button. He says he is commiserating because the button/Turbo Tax was wrong. He also points out that I, really, owe $88.47 because of the original $84 plus some interest and penaties.

For some reason I feel good about being told I owe the State money. This strange sensation of good feeling only increases when the Tax & Rev guy tells me that over 70,000 NM taxpayers had the same problem. Over 70,000....

So....Bill Richardson's little energy rebate has resulted in the following unintended consequences....

  1. Over 70,000 taxpayers got little letters telling them they owed more money.
  2. These little letters clearly stating "THIS IS NOT A BILL" were, in fact, bills.
  3. The staff at NM Tax & Rev has had to re-process these over 70,000 tax forms.
  4. The staff at NM Tax & Rev has had to talk with many taxpayers over the phone.
  5. The staff at NM Tax & Rev has perhaps had to deal with a few taxpayers who weren't feeling quite as good about the whole process as I inexplicably have been.
  6. Of course, all of the above follows months after Burque Babble mentioned this op/ed in the Albuquerque Journal from UNM Accountancy Professor, James R. Hamill.
  7. Professor Hamill was noted in this previous post as having written perhaps the most obfuscatory answer to a question in taxation history.
  8. Your humble blogmeister realizes the intense competition for "most obfuscatory answer to a question in taxation history", but sticks to his opinion that Hamill's response is worthy of consideration for such an honor.
  9. Professor Hamill was writing about the Bill Richardson Energy Rebate.
  10. Finally, in calculating the time, money, psychic damage caused by the Bill Richardson Energy Rebate no effort will be made to calculate the psychotherapy costs derived from NM taxpayers who read the Hamill column or talked to NM Tax & Rev people (regardless of how nice those Tax & Rev people were on the phone...which was really nice).
There are lessons to be learned from all this, I guess. The biggest one is fundamental on the same level as the Prime Directive in Star Trek and the whole time/space continuum. Namely it is this:
  • Government is designed to have money go from taxpayers to the government, and possibly back to taxpayers as a tax refund.
  • Any event occurring outside of this taxpayers-government-possible tax refund loop creates rips in the time/space continuum. Matter and anti-matter collide. Dimensions of being slam into one another. Chaos not only reigns, but replaces any semblance of order in all situations, even those generally given to predictability.
  • One direct result of this: the popularity of Howie Mandel and "Deal or No Deal".

Scot debates whether to claim the Bill Richardson Energy Rebate

P.S.: And I had forgotten that Big Bill called a "Special Session" to create all this. Thanks again, Bill. Really...thanks. You shouldn't have.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just got one of these 'Recomputation Notice, This Is Not A Bill' too. I guess that they know I didn't vote for Bill Richardson so they waited until September 27th to send my notice. I had to call because of a 'computer glitch' to see what penalty and interest would need to be added to my $84.00--my total came to $97.70. Now I have to go back through TurboTax and see if this is a software error, and if so, put the Guaranteed 100% Accurate to the test.