Not to make light of heart attacks.
But I thought I might have one when I opened a letter from a certain government agency telling me that I owed $27,180 in taxes, penalties, and interest for the 2011 tax year.
A heart attack seemed an appropriate way to respond.
Fortunately, I was already sitting down.
And even better, I was able to determine, fairly quickly, where the problem was, and it wasn’t with me.
I’d led a weekend of Bible studies and preached on Sunday at a lovely church in Virginia, which paid me $750 and filed the appropriate 1099-MISC tax form, which I in turn reported as self-employment income in the proper manner.
But some poor entry-level worker at this particular agency, perhaps overworked or overwhelmed or just not very careful, misplaced a decimal and keyed in $75,000, which made it appear that I’d under-reported my income by a significant amount. Hence the penalties and interest on top of the extra taxes.
If you know of a church that pays 75 G’s for a weekend of work, let me know. I’ll gladly report every penny.
After peeling myself from the floor and pulling out my records, I was gratified to find adequate documentation to demonstrate that the error was not mine, but it still took a couple of hours to put everything together, craft a polite letter explaining the problem, and get the “I disagree” form in the mail.
Now I just have to trust another government agency (usually very dependable) to deliver my letter to the appropriate office, and then trust yet another official to acknowledge that yes, it’s their mistake.
And while trusting, I’m determined to keep a good attitude. I’m glad we have these government agences, even though they’re run by humans and sometimes make mistakes. And I’m willing to pay my taxes and contribute to the greater good: that’s just part of being a responsible citizen.
If I had to pay higher tax rates, it would be because I was making more money — at which point I hope I would be grateful for the income and happy to pay a greater share, because I’d been blessed and could afford it.
So, if anybody wants to help out the government by offering 75 grand for a weekend Bible study, I’m your man.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.