IRS Computers take place of accountants : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Regional News - March 20, 2000

Computers take place of accountants By Christopher Zurawsky TRIBUNE-REVIEW

Mention the words "IRS" and "audit" together, and thoughts arise of anxiety-provoking, face-to-face encounters with a tax agent.

But most audits now take place through the mail - although that doesn't necessarily mean they're any less exasperating.

The Internal Revenue Service calls them "correspondence contacts," computer-generated mini-audits sent from one of the agency's 33 service centers nationwide.

These inquiries, cloaked in the drab garb of a business letter, target specific items on tax returns. In 1994, the IRS broadened its definition of "audit" to include these queries.

As IRS agents perform fewer conventional audits, its computers are picking up the slack.

In 1998, there were 625,021 computer-generated audits, compared with 551,420 in-person audits, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a nonpartisan research group at Syracuse University in New York. The computer audits analyze tax returns as well as any supporting electronic data.

The IRS does not compile statistics showing computer-audit figures for individual districts.

Cynthia DePastino of Monroeville knows how it feels to have one of these pesky, high-tech audits buzzing around.

DePastino has a son, 18, and a daughter, 21. She works as a human resources assistant and is studying for a bachelor's degree in psychology at Carlow College in Oakland.

In 1997, she received a letter from the IRS claiming she didn't qualify for an earned-income tax credit she declared on her 1995 and 1996 returns.

"For over a year, I made phone calls and phone calls and phone calls," she said.

After reading in a newsmagazine about other people facing the same IRS inquiry, she sent a desperate e-mail to U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, a Republican from Penn Hills.

"It was an absolute nightmare. My life was on hold," DePastino said. "They were telling me that I owe over $10,000, at a phenomenal interest rate per day. I was afraid to spend any money. `Are they going to take my car? My house?' I didn't know."

Just before Christmas 1998, DePastino got a call from Santorum aide Brian Kennedy.

"He told me, `I have some good news and bad news. The good news is you don't owe the IRS $10,000. The bad news is it will take about two weeks to get a letter confirming it.'"

"I was jumping up and down in the office crying after he called," she said.

"It was extremely frightening and nerve-racking, the not knowing. I dreaded walking into my house and seeing another letter from the IRS."

-- Martin Thompson (, March 21, 2000


I got a nasty gram from the irs saying I owed over $1000 tax and BIG penalties.

I paid it, knowing what "they" can do - that really hurt, I was left on ignore for hours and no one would get me a straight answer.

Months latter I called and asked for an explainition. It turns out they had scanned the schedule "A" (blank) and not the schedule "B", so I still owed for them -- it sure sounded like a lame and bogus excuse to me. I got a refund and INTEREST. When I wrote to the abatement department.

You need to be very specific about asking what is wrong. Request that they send you their version of your tax form (even by fax). Don't let the irs person sluff you off, they must send you a copy -- here's the poop they can't send you a printed version, only a hand written fill in the blank. Ain't that sad, the biggest computers on the planet and they still have to write it out by hand -- that's why they don't want to do it.

Remember to get their name and ID number, make them spell their and and say the number at least twice and rattle it back to them to verify it. And close the converstation by saying thank you Mr./Ms. What_ever_their_name_was.

Always be very polite, bit be insistant.

BTW, NO is not the correct answer, it is your money!

Signed, Not willing to be screwed out of more than my fair share.

Perry de Fuzzy

-- Perry de Fuzzy (, March 21, 2000.

correct the text to:Be polite, BUT be insistant

Also have you noticed how it takes months for them to send you the nasty gram, instead of a week or so? -- So you get zapped with interest on the error too. Interest should only acculumlate after the first notice, not from the April 15th.

-- Perry de Fuzzy (, March 21, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ