Never underestimate the power of a decimal point.


Gather round boys and girls, and make yourselves comfortable while River spins the tale of her fight with the IRS.

It started with a letter and a ridiculous claim of moneys owed.



We’re good citizens, we pay our fair share of taxes. Every year we pay, and pay, and pay. The husband worked hard all his life and we live comfortably. With no children and no allowable deductions we pay every April on top of the exorbitant amount Uncle Sam strips from his annual income…. so when I saw the IRS wanted $57,364 more than the $20,787 we’d already paid? I was more than a little shocked.



As you can see, the problem lay in the adjusted gross income. I reported $157,557 while the IRS in their infinite wisdom said it was $381,774. Knowing that was (unfortunately) incorrect.… I investigated.

This was our 2020 tax form. And yes, the IRS is so understaffed and overworked they just now got to it. I file our taxes. Me, personally… and mail in paper forms the old school way. I’ve done it that way for decades and never had a problem, until now.

After some online research, I realized there was no other choice than to call the IRS. Which I dreaded, but did, repeatedly… for 5 solid hours that afternoon. No matter which number I called.. and I called them all … they were answered by the same recording. No matter how many different buttons I pushed or didn’t push, no matter how many internet tricks I tried to find a human, I got nowhere. Basically the phone lines were tied up, they didn’t have enough agents, and they wouldn’t put me on hold or let me leave a call back number. It was a nightmare.

The next day I called at 6:59 am. They open at 7:00 but still, I got nowhere. The lines were still clogged. How is that possible? After being on hold for over an hour and a half I finally got an operator. I explained the situation and they transferred me to the department that could help. Hallelujah.

I waited another 96 minutes. Yes, I kept track. When someone finally answered? I was ecstatic. Until I explained my problem and they told me they only handled returns and transferred me back to the operator. The one who didn’t pick up for another 42 minutes.



Did I mention I was still in my pajamas and hadn’t had breakfast? The husband made me toast and beat feet for the man cave at this point because I was… how shall we say?… slightly perturbed.

After explaining my problem to a second operator I was put on hold for another agent in a different department. 103 minutes later my portable phone battery was dying as she picked up, so I ran to the office for the other handset before we got disconnected.

I had a long drawn out conversation with a rather crusty woman named Mrs. Knox who kept putting me on hold to investigate the issue. After trying to blame me multiple times, she realized what went wrong. Since I mailed in paper forms, the IRS had to enter the data electronically. When they keyed in my husband’s military pension of $27,641? They entered $276,410 instead. Oh, those pesky commas and decimal points. They get you every time.

Now that I’d brought the error to the attention of the government, and they admitted it was their fault… I figured I was home free and ready to hang up the phone.

Am I naive or what?

Mrs. Knox did not have the authority to correct the error. Nor did she have the power to grant me the 180 day extension that will be needed to clean up this mess because the IRS is understaffed and overworked. Of course she also told me if the issue isn’t resolved by August 5th they’ll send the bill to collections and possibly ruin my credit.


I spent another 69 minutes on the phone with Mrs Knox as she tried to figure out the best course of action. And by action, I mean they do nothing and I have to jump through hoops to correct their error. I waited. And waited. And waited some more. The husband kept coming in to check on me but I must have had smoke coming out of my ears because he would flee shortly after arrival. By 1:15 in the afternoon, 6+ hours after I’d started, the second portable handset had died and I was landlocked to the old fashioned plug in bedroom phone.

And after all that time? The only solution Mrs. Knox offered was for me to write a letter. Jesus wept! A letter. To the IRS. Which would sit unanswered on someone’s desk for another 2 years? Not happening.

So what did Mrs. Knox do? She transferred me to the Tax Payer Advocate Office because she felt sure they would take on my case. It won’t surprise you to learn that I was on hold for another 31 minutes only to have that operator put me on hold for another 44 minutes for a rep to tell me I would have to write a letter explaining the problem, provide documentation and a reason for requesting their services. Then wait wait 4-6 weeks for an answer.

I believe I may have screamed at that point.

Right after I hung the fuck up.

7 1/2 solid hours on the phone. For nothing.

So I did what any sane human being would do. I took a shower, got dressed, joined my husband in the man cave, popped the top on one of these lovelies….



And called H & R Block.



38 thoughts on “Never underestimate the power of a decimal point.”

  1. The IRS is allowed to make mistakes, but you aren’t allowed to correct them in a timely manner? If the IRS mistakenly moved a decimal point on a refund cheque by one position to the right, I bet they would be instantly screaming attempted theft if the refundee tried to cash that cheque.
    Bureaucracy is a one way street. If the mistake is in their favour (á là your tax bill) they don’t care. It seems to be your fault they fucked up!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I feel for you. What a @&$/#%&@ pain. We have been using tax return software for 20 years. It is very easy and you know it is correct before you submit. No one else touches your input. It may be a viable option for the future. I recommend it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh. My. GOD. I have some on-hold horror stories relating to airlines and banks and house refinancing, but this is leagues beyond that. And so high stakes. If H&R Block doesn’t do the trick, get a lawyer… and make sure you sue for pain and suffering!

    Liked by 1 person

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