Written by Ben Carter
Yesterday I opened a letter from the Comptroller of Maryland. Below their logo is a wonderful tagline that reads “Serving the People”. I read the one-page letter and realized it had numbers on it. Those numbers represented an amount the state of Maryland wanted me to pay. The numbers were $1853.90. Maryland was indeed trying to serve me.
Maryland was trying to collect some kind of tax bill. The bill threatened me with collection agency calls, “judgement against my real or personal property in circuit court” and made sure to say these things could affect my credit rating. But the “Notice of Collection Action” did not explain why I was being asked to pay the amount I was asked to pay. I thought this was strange. Sending a bill without detailing why you are sending the bill, even if it is a “final notice” of sorts, seemed odd.
Most people don’t like owing money, but tend to be okay with bills they expect or can anticipate. You remember how fly you looked last Friday because you had on your newest pair of heels and specifically remember asking your girlfriend to “get the shoes” in the shot for your #clubbin post to Instagram. Of course, the credit charge showing on your account for those heels won’t be a surprise. You know you had the heat on, so a higher gas bill isn’t something that will catch you off guard.
But a bill you don’t expect or even understand is another thing.
I’ll be honest. I was ready to kirk. So much so, last night, before I turned on the Clippers vs. Golden State game (to cry or cheer, not knowing which it would be), I almost went online to pay the $1853.90. It would have cleared a nice portion of my savings, but the anxiety I got from owing the money was almost too much to bare. But something told me to wait. I was anxious and a little bit angry, and I figured this was probably a bad state to hand over $1853 in.
This morning I called a couple of (410) numbers and it was explained to me that I had not filed my State Tax return in 2011. This didn’t make sense to me. I use TurboTax for my taxes and my account shows I did file in 2011, but the woman on the phone said I had no tax filing on hand for that year. She suggested I go file my 2011 taxes on Maryland’s tax website.
Long story short, I “refiled” my taxes for 2011 in about 20 minutes and came to where my new tax burden would be paid. The website showed the amount of $56... Damn. Maryland tried to stick me for paper.
I’m not sure if this “tax saga” is over. I may get another notice saying I now owe $1800.90 in a few weeks. But for me the lesson was in not getting flustered when strange people (or states) come knocking on your door for money. TurboTax says I filed. Maryland says I didn’t. I don’t know who dropped what ball, but somebody dropped something and it almost cost me $1853.90.
The Lesson: Don’t let a nonsensical bill go uninvestigated and pay an unnecessary cost, even if you’re pissed about having to do so.
Have you ever got so mad about a bill that you just paid it?