They owe me $212

I wonder just how long the state of Iowa would allow me to go owing them $212?

In fact, I'm willing to go double or nothing -- the exact figure of my state income tax refund -- that the people in Des Moines, which is probably French for ''Dense Minds,'' that it'd be nowhere near 12 weeks. If I owed them $212, hell, if it was $12, they'd have a state trooper on my doorstep in 212 seconds, demanding payment and hefty interest. It's easy to see how the bureaucrats down at the confluence of the Des Moines and Raccoon rivers got themselves in a billion dollar hole, isn't it? They didn't wait no three months to spend the $212 more than I owed them. I sent in my tax return the week before the usual April 15 deadline, only to discover that the state had extended the date to April 30. So, I waited the usual eight weeks it used to take to get my money. I waited, and waited and waited.

Finally I thought I'd waited long enough and started rummaging through the phone book looking for someone to call.

Did you ever notice that the way they have the numbers arranged in the book is alphabetical until you get to ''revenue?'' They list that particular department anything but alphabetically. It's listed after the ''Cs'' for corrections and courts, the ''Ds'' for driver's license, the ''Hs'' for human services (which has nothing to do with revenue these days), the ''Js'' for job service, the ''Ps'' for parole office, the ''Ts'' for transportation and even the ''Vs'' for vocational rehabilitation. It's dead last.

If you think that's weird, wait till you dial the number. ''You have reached the department of revenue automated phone, tax-return tracking system,'' says the less than pleasant voice a good five minutes into a series of button-pushing dance steps.

''If this is the information you seek, please push the No. 1 on your key pad,'' it goes on.

Yeah, like I waited the last 10 weeks and change to not be interested in where my money is.

''Please enter your Social Security number, followed by the star sign?'' the voice continues.

''Please enter the tax year of the return you are seeking information on?'' is the next question.

Now just why in the world would somebody be calling this number looking for a tax return from some time other than last year? And what's the chances they've got such information when they obviously can't keep track of last year?

''Please enter the amount of your expected return?'' Now we're getting someplace I tell myself, being lulled into a false sense of security.

''Using the Social Security number and amount of return you have entered, there is no match currently in our computer system.'' The bland bureaucratic voice is then quick to explain that ''no match'' does not necessarily mean there is no tax return, just that it has not yet been processed and/or you have entered the wrong social security number or amount.

Oh yeah, and then they feign a concerned tone to note that it is currently taking 12 weeks to process tax returns.

I've called back every day for the past week and a half, only to get the same ''no match'' response.

Another thing. If I sent my return to them and they need my Social Security number to track it, just why would they also need the exact amount of that anticipated return to tell me where my check is? Shouldn't they're computer generated, automated telecommunications system be able to tell how much they owe me? This does not inspire a lot of confidence in these geniuses.

I'm willing to make you another little wager. I'll bet that once the boys in Des Moines take a read of this particular item over their morning coffee, it doesn't take 12 days for somebody in the Iowa Department of Revenue to contact me about an audit, which won't be noted in their automated phone system or the idiotic computer they keep telling me has no match for my Social Security number, year of tax or my return. You know, if they had known this was gonna be such a gigantic mess, how come they pushed the deadline back to April 30? Which probably explains at least two weeks of the delay.

Next year I've half a mind to owe them $212. Then I'm going to take the money and invest in a down payment on one of those automated telephone answering systems. See how long they accept the ''no match'' response after jumping through more than a few hoops and asking me 1, 2, 12 times where their money is?

this time next year, just forward all my calls to a facility at that department of corrections listed before the department of revenue in the Iowa state governmental phone book.

Uploaded to The Zephyr website August 6, 2002

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