Saturday, January 28, 2006

Learning lessons the hard way

Along with all the fun stuff that's been going on for me lately, there's been a dose of not-so-fun stuff as well. Or, more aptly put, stuff that's frustrating, unnerving, and makes me want to beat the shit out of somebody (one person in particular).

I got a letter from the Alabama Department of Revenue last week warning me of "impending collection action." Supposedly, I owed around $2400. At first, I just figured that my mortgage company had neglected to pay my taxes from escrow — that should be easy to take care of. But there was something in the letter about rental tax, so I called the state tax department to figure out what exactly was going on.

As it turns out, they have me and my ex-wife owing several months worth of sales and rental taxes from our former business in late 2004. However, I sold Haven in October 2003. It seems that the guy I sold the store to continued to use my tax ID number without my knowledge or authorization. He charged his customers sales tax, but never paid it to the state. Not only did he not pay it, but he didn't file it either, so the state estimated the taxes (at numbers that seem to me to be higher than they should) and tacked on a $50 late fee for each month. Then, of couse, the fees have been collecing interest all this time.

I actually had to get in touch with my ex-wife and work with her to sort out the whole debacle — that alone should signify that the situation was dire. I told her first-off when I called that I had no more interest in talking to her than she did with me, but that my call was unfortunately necessary. As I learned from The Godfather: Part II, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend."

Anyway, my ex-wife and I have to proove to the state that we didn't own the business during 2004. Even then, the state isn't much concerned with whose fault the situation is -- all they care is that our social security numbers are attached to the tax ID number, so as far as they're concerned, we're liable. I sent them a batch of documentation showing that we weren't connected to the store (including a bill of sale in which our successor specifically states that he's responsible for all the store's debts and taxes from October 1, 2003 to December 31, 2004), but if they don't rule in our favor, we'll have to pony up the money then take this jackass to court to make him pay us back. It'll be easy to proove our case in court, at least, but that would also be a big hassle. I really hope the state will take care of it without having to get to that point.

In the meantime, my ex tracked down the guy who bought the store and hounded him with phone calls until he finally got back to her. He supposedly apologized for the problem and promised to take care of paying the delinquent taxes. I'll believe it when I see it. Considering the difficultly I encountered in wrangling the money from him when I sold the store, I don't anticipate an easy transaction this time either.

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