Sam Smith – I have recently come to the conclusion that humans may not become extinct thanks to warfare or climate change but rather that they may starve to death owing to the number of forms they will have to fill out in order to buy something at their local grocery store.
If you think I’m exaggerating, consider that in the past 24 hours I have spent about 20% of my waking hours dealing with forms from the IRS, CVS Pharmacy, and Maine Eye (the latter I haven’t even filled out yet). Most of this effort has been spent on behalf of the IRS, which was questioning whether I am really the Sam Smith claiming a refund on his 2021 return.
According to CNBC last year:
The IRS flagged 5.2 million tax refunds for fraud last year, a nearly 50% increase over 2019, according to the Taxpayer Advocate Service. Of those, about 1.9 million were tagged for identity screening.
In 2019, 63% of the refunds vetted for identity theft turned out to be legitimate, according to the organization. About 18% of flagged refunds took longer than 120 days to arrive.
The IRS protected $2.5 billion in losses due to its identity-theft filters in 2019…
Refund delays were among the top 10 most serious taxpayer problems in 2020, the Taxpayer Advocate Service said.
Dan Herron, a certified financial planner and accountant, waited almost a year for a tax refund after filing his return in 2019, which got flagged for possible identity fraud.
“It was a pretty lengthy, drawn-out process,” said Herron, a principal of Elemental Wealth Advisors in San Luis Obispo, California.
“I wish [the IRS] had something more streamlined,” he added. “They’re so archaic in the way they do things.”
If I were an IRS investigator I would, for starters, assume that a fraudulent tax payer would use some name other than Samuel Smith. But what was most noticeable was when my wife mentioned that she was lucky that I got to work on it all and not her, as someone in their 80s who still considers the Internet to be something of a conspiracy against ordinary folk. I’ve had a web site since 1995 but what about all those who lack the training or even a computer to deal with this issue?
The instructions for proving your identity took three pages in small type including:
If we can’t verify your identity online or over the phone we will ask you to schedule an appointment and bring the documents listed above to your local IRS office to verify in person…. If you choose to authorize someone to represent you before the IRS, complete Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative.
My own time killer was partially that I had not realized that a photo of my driver’s license was a .png and not a .jpg. As I learned long ago about the web, salvation is often found in trivia rather than substantive matters. But what about all those Americans who don’t know how to upload a .jpg?
I realize the IRS is trying to eliminate fraud, but what we don’t seem to understand is that those who are comfortable with matters such as these learned how to handle it all at a higher level thanks to an education significantly more advanced than many Americans. Even the CVS questionnaire asked me:
Do you have a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome?
Do you have a history of multi-system inflammatory syndrome?
I said no but have really no idea what they were talking about.
I suspect that as time goes on the gap between those who create forms and those forced to fill them out will grow far greater, and lead to new worlds of the now unknown, like a form at your grocery store asking you when the last time was you ate a fried mushroom and provide proof.
For me, one of the glories of graduating from college was not to have to answer so many questions. Increasingly these days the queries have come back but without any grades. Just reminders that you did not properly complete the last form.