“IRS did an audit”: 240-970-7264

“The robot stated that the IRS had ‘fraud’ investigation underway and I should phone the number immediately.”

Twice on the same day this month, I got messages on the answering machine from 240-970-7264. The details were ominous, but the technology was laughable.

A mechanical voice describes a “criminal investigation from I.R.S… There is a fraud which you are hiding from federal government.” Note the lack of the article “the”, suggesting the person recording is NOT a native American English speaker.

I Googled the number and came across Report the Call attached to that number. One person before me, and at least one subsequently, experienced similar annoyance.

One of them noted, “The robot stated that the IRS had ‘fraud’ investigation underway and I should phone the number immediately.” That’s correct in my case as well. Area code 240 is in Maryland, in suburban DC, BTW.

It seems incredible that anyone would fall for such an obvious hoax, but the IRS indicates that this type of fraud is ongoing, some of it far more threatening than these robocalls.

“Note that the IRS does not:
“Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
“Demand that you pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe. You should also be advised of your rights as a taxpayer.
“Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law-enforcement to have you arrested for not paying. The IRS also cannot revoke your driver’s license, business licenses, or immigration status. Threats like these are common tactics scam artists use to trick victims into buying into their schemes.”

I know some people have been known to call back the number to waste their time, but I’m not returning a call to 240-970-7264 and wasting mine. Now, if YOU want to call, knock yourselves out!

January rambling #2: JEOPARDY!, and recess

‘I feel like a dime among nickels.’

Abe Vigoda.Spidey

I received one of those recorded scam IRS phone calls this month, threatening to put me in jail. Mine came from the Syracuse, NY area from a known scam phone number.

2015 Was Hottest Year in Recorded History.

No boots on the ground… What does it mean?

Abortion Is as Old as Pregnancy: 4,000 Years of Reproductive Rights History.

No relation: The Green brothers explain January 1 and Oregon “militia” Continue reading “January rambling #2: JEOPARDY!, and recess”

The Wife and the tax compromise

I wasn’t giving to charity because it was deductible, I was giving because I was called to do so.

1040sc_Page_1I’m playing cards (hearts) the day after my birthday, and someone mentioned preparing taxes. I noted that the Wife and I get someone else to do it for us. My friend did not understand. “It’s EASY with TurboTax” or some other software. I repeated that we outsource our tax prep because it was best for us to do so. My reaction was perceived as passionate, maybe even heated, although it did not feel that way to me. It was just what we do to ensure domestic tranquility.

For one thing, I don’t think doing the taxes is that simple, like this post I came across notes. By the time you’ve gathered all the papers necessary to plug into some tax software, most of the crappy work that needs to be calculated has already been done.

The first year we filed together was a nightmare for me and a real irritant for her. Here’s why: I had NEVER filled out an itemized tax form in my life. I had used Form 1040A, or, often Form 1040EZ, which is, as it suggests, easy.

The Wife, conversely, had a rental property that involved filling out a Schedule C for income gain or loss on a business.

She also calculated her charitable deductions, including the value of the non-cash donations. Not only could I not be bothered to do that in the past, but I also had a philosophical aversion to it. I wasn’t giving to charity because it was deductible, I was giving because I was called to do so. There are a couple of friends of mine who run a Catholic charity which is, pointedly, NOT a 501(c) tax-deductible charity under IRS law, and they expect people to donate based on their heart, not as a tax haven. NOW I do it because my spouse thinks it’s fiscally prudent, and despite my antipathy for doing so, we do.

Those first two years of filing taxes, which took FOREVER, we got slapped with penalties for underpaying somehow. After that, we got someone else to do the work. Actually at least one of THOSE years, we paid too little again, but we were only responsible for the amount, NOT the penalty and interest, which came out of the pockets of the accountant.

The Wife and I are celebrating 15 years of marriage today, and one of the reasons is that we found a way not to make ourselves crazy each April.

The Obama Presidency: Five Years Down, Three To Go

Whether you see Edward Snowden as whistleblower or unpatriotic – I land in the former camp – it’s difficult to think that we would not have been talking about this had he not released the information he had.

President Barack Obama Honors TeachersI know judging a two-term presidency with 36 months to go is a dodgy proposition, but what is the point of writing a blog if not to make these brilliant observations?

THE GOOD:
I had great hopes because the very first thing he tackled was wage discrimination. He was stuck with a horrendous economy in freefall, and the stimulus, despite spending that ought to have been better targeted, had an overall good effect. GM and Chrysler were saved from almost certain death, which would have had a huge ripple effect on other parts of the economy.

The Affordable Care Act, a/k/a Obamacare, was not what I wanted, as I think his team took the single-payer option off the table WAY too early. Still, the fact that it doesn’t doom persons with pre-existing conditions to, likely, no insurance is a plus, and I appreciate the provision of keeping young adults on their parents’ policies.

Although he may have become more directed on the issue because of something his Vice-President said “too early,” Obama has been strong on LGBT issues, and in particular on marriage equality. One can argue about the US participation at the Sochi Olympics, but his delegation sends a message to Russia.

Obama is rather good at speechifying. From his talks after the shootings in Arizona to Nelson Mandela’s celebration, I often like listening to what he has to say, and how he says it.

The GOOD (but late):

The commuting of the sentences of eight federal inmates who were convicted of crack cocaine offenses, when the crime, if committed today, would not have engendered as much jail time, is the right thing.

THE BAD:

Here’s what I believe: our use of drones in Pakistan and Afghanistan and Yemen, with its inevitable loss of innocent life/”collateral damage”, is creating more terrorists. If you review the news stories about the various heads of terrorist organizations that have been killed abroad, it doesn’t appear to have had any long-lasting effect on the problem.

In the case of the NSA spying, the President is only now making plans to limit its reach, as though he had been oblivious to the extent it had been going on, which I found quite disquieting. Whether you see Edward Snowden as a whistleblower or unpatriotic – I land in the former camp – it’s difficult to think that we would not have been talking about this had he not released the information he had.

Surely, the Benghazi bombing, while not the unique situation that it has been painted, was never really well explained, and, as a recent Congressional inquiry suggests, avoidable.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is awful, and it’s little wonder Congressional Democrats are unexcited about it, citing the “potential to undermine important environmental, public health and labor standards.”

While I’ll tentatively tout Obamacare, there’s no defense to the terrible rollout on the website. If it’s your signature accomplishment, you’d think you’d make sure it worked.

THE HMM:

Every credible thing I read about the IRS targeting of conservative groups, suggested that it was 1) also done to liberal groups and 2) fairly limited in scope. I suppose I should define “limited” to clarify that there was no suggestion that this was directed by the White House since some groups wanted to use it as grounds for impeachment.

The bluster about going to war with Syria sounded like a bluff to get Congress to own it, and at least got Damascus to the table. How that situation will play out is still up in the air.

The Iraq war is one which the US shouldn’t have been fighting in the first place, and now the country seems to be falling into the sectarian violence that I had feared would happen. Not sure WHAT should happen there.

Much of the media point to the negative but see photos you didn’t see from the President’s trip to South Africa.

THE UGLY:

Yeah, the Obamacare rollout was a mess, but it’s become an excuse for bad behavior of other players: Insurance Scam; How Private Insurance Companies Are Using Obamacare Fears To Rip People Off.

And comparisons of Obama to Hitler and Mao are just stupid. Likewise the notion that he is paving the way for the Antichrist.

To suggest that none of these tasteless characterizations, not to mention calls for his assassination are about race would be disingenuous. Hey, The New York Post cover involving President Obama’s selfie at the Mandela event managed to be racist AND sexist.

I voted for Obama, TWICE. Never bought the HOPE stuff all that much, but I thought he was better than McCain, certainly better than Romney. This does not mean I approve of everything he’s done; far from it, and I’m undoubtedly leaving some stuff out.

At the same time, I’ve thought, pretty much from the outset, that being the first black President was going to prove to be very difficult, with folks on FOX Noise and its allies complaining about what he had not accomplished as early as January 28, 2009. The “spontaneous” Tea Party opposition was in full swing by April; where was the honeymoon presidents usually get?

Unfortunately, he’s getting to be pretty much a lame-duck president. Still, maybe something unexpected will come around to burnish his legacy.

This week in Obama political scandal

It’s the attempt by the federal government to make legal acts, or marginally illegal acts, literally a federal case.

President Obama is currently embroiled in three situations labeled as political scandal. The IRS scandal is the most problematic in that it involves a highly disliked arm of government that affects almost everyone’s lives. But I agree that the REAL scandal in the IRS issue is that there are lots of political groups on both ends of the political spectrum getting tax-exempt status, when that designation should be limited to more cultural/civic issues. Since the Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court in 2010, there have been far more organizations of every political stripe trying to influence elections, sometimes illegally. Also, the richer applicants fell under lesser scrutiny, a real class distinction. The President has shown public indignation over this particular issue, but he may be missing the bigger picture.

The notion that the Benghazi story is bigger than Watergate and Iran contra combined suggests that the “silly season” has already begun, Bob Woodward’s assertion notwithstanding. If there are altered documents, it may be Republicans feeding them to the mainstream media. At the end of the day, the real story on the government side will be that the US was ill-prepared for an attack in a hot spot, on a significant day (9/11 in 2012) despite warnings within the Administration, that no help was available to those who died there; that’s the scandal. The “talking points” of who said what, and when? An issue will be made of this, but it seems like usual interagency jockeying, rather than malicious intent to me.

I’m much more concerned by the unethical seizure of phone records of Associated Press journalists in connection to media leaks; it’s not just that First Amendment “freedom of speech” thing; it’s a Fourth Amendment “unreasonable search and seizure” thing, which has the effect of stifling whistleblowers. It’s the attempt to make legal acts, or marginally illegal acts, literally a federal case. One saw this in the Aaron Schwartz case, huge governmental overreach. The story of the octogenarian nun in federal prison for protesting may tick you off as it did me.

The President, as noted, seems to be worked up over one of these issues, but is more defensive about the other two. I would wish he’d get more excited about trampling people’s constitutional rights, but that does not appear to be in the cards. I find his behavior disappointing, to say the least.

Still, when the I word gets thrown around, I agree with this assessment: “it would take about fifty of each of the three to collectively equal Watergate, let alone the impeachment and incarceration we should have had over Iraq.”