Sunday, May 15, 2022

We Were Just Trying to Pay Our Taxes

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 16, 2022] ©2022

Olof and I don’t have a complicated financial life, so he is fully capable of doing our taxes on TurboTax every year. Somehow this year, instead of getting money back from both the state and the feds, we owed them a bunch of money. As in low-five figures. But as we do with our quarterly estimated taxes, I wrote each entity a check, stuck it in the envelope with the payment stub and deposited it (obviously not certified) in the mailbox outside the Pacific Beach Post Office.

The federal check was cashed within a week.  The state check is still at large.

I have no idea where the U.S. Postal Service or the Franchise Tax Board (FTB) is at fault.  But a wayward tax check can cost you a bunch of money in penalties and late fees if it is not received by the deadline. 

Fortunately, I had sent both checks more than a month in advance.  When the one check didn’t clear, I started to panic.  The Franchise Tax Board’s chat line human said there was nothing she could do in less we had a cancelled check.  But, we said, that is precisely the point.  You haven’t processed our check.  Wait a little longer, she said. We’re not exactly balls of fire 

We tried setting up MyFTB.gov accounts but to do that, your identity has to be verified by Transunion, one of the credit reporting agencies.  We have never ever been able to get our identities verified for any on-line site through Transunion, despite multiple efforts to correct inaccuracies over the years, because they insist we have lived at places we never lived or had phone numbers that are so ancient that we no longer recognize them.  So the only way to get these accounts set up was to have the FTB send us pin numbers in the mail in “3-5 days”.  Olof’s took 12, mine 18. But both arrived long past the tax deadline.

Meanwhile, the federal and state Estimated Tax payment checks I’d sent a week after our  tax return checks immediately cleared.

The idea of cancelling a check to any government tax institution was almost too terrifying to contemplate.  But as the April 18 deadline fast approached, I finally stopped payment on the first check.

I then bit the bullet and called the Franchise Tax Board’s customer service line. The endless recording, of course, advised setting up an “easy” (hah!) MyFTB.gov account rather than wait for what they predicted would be AT LEAST three hours in hold time. And believe me, it was.

But I finally got a human who said he would investigate the situation for me.  He asked for my call-back number in case we were disconnected before putting me on a “brief hold”. Whereupon we were disconnected. He never called back despite the fact that I clutched my phone in my desperate little hands for the next four hours hoping he might.

So, now at the 11th hour, with the Franchise Tax Board’s automated line continuing to profess no payment from us, I went on to their link to pay them directly through our bank account routing and account number.  This went well until I tried to actually input the amount of payment.  I tried it 15 different ways – commas, decimal points etc. etc. – but no luck.  Finally I dragged Olof over to my computer to consult.  It has been my experience that machinery, particularly computer-related machinery, is afraid of Olof and will cooperate in ways with him that they won’t with me.  And sure enough, Olof typed in the amount using the numerical keypad on the right side of the keyboard and voilĂ .  It’s entered.  I was using the numbers along the top of the keyboard. 

And this leads me to why I prefer to write checks instead of setting up on-line accounts to pay things.  There is always some stupid glitch.  I swear agencies like Transunion and the DMV and the Franchise Tax Board only hire people who have flunked out of computer school and have never once tested their websites on an actual person before inflicting them on the populace.  Certainly the Covid vaccine scheduling sites were a classic example.

Setting up on-line accounts usually requires – as did MyFTB.gov – picking three security questions from ten utterly inane options like: “What is the one course you regret not taking?” Whatever happened to “city where you were married”?

So even before you get to the idiotic questions whose answers you’d never remember, there’s still the whole dual authentication thing where they send a code to your phone (usually my phone which is very annoying to Olof in case I’m not home), and deciphering the sometimes indecipherable I’m-not-a-robot stuff, and resetting the password that you had to set up with a capital letter and special characters and at least eight numbers that expires every six months and can’t be re-used.

Believe me, a check is five times faster.  Well, assuming it gets there.

 

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Favorite Column Leads, Part V: Technology And Misceallaneous

 [“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published May 9, 2022] ©2022

 This fall will commence my fourteenth year of writing “Let Inga Tell You.”  It’s been the best retirement gig ever. I’ve covered a lot of topics, some of them repeatedly:  technology, kids, husbands, rats, weight, parking, appliances, Covid, and a host of La Jolla-centric issues.  Over the last four columns, I re-capped some of my favorite leads from the time I started this column. (No, I’m not retiring.) In this final installment, I’m covering my on-going battle with technology, appliances that have gotten too smart for me, travel, and assorted miscellaneous topics.

Technology 

I personally think that it’s not too much to ask that computers do what you want, not what you say. [Jan. 14, 2010]

I know some people who can’t wait to upgrade their cell phones when a new model comes out. Personally, I’d rather eat my own organs.  [March 29, 2017]

Welcome to Auntie Inga’s Curmudgeon Hour. Grab your preferred beverage and sit down while I whine again about why life has just gotten too perplexing for me.  Jan. 22, 2020]   

Every election, I conclude that robocalls are God’s way of punishing people who still have land lines.  [June 12, 2014]

 As anyone who has read my column for any length of time knows, I truly believe that technology will be the death of me.  Probably literally, when I can’t figure out how to call 911 on my cell phone as I’m having a heart attack. [“Feb. 19, 2020]

  Technology has just become too technical.  [Aug. 16, 2018]

  There are infinite numbers of things that can go wrong with your computer. And Microsoft thinks of new ones every day. [ Aug. 27, 2015] 

  Being defeated by my new alarm clock was definitely a new low in my ever-deteriorating relationship with technology. [May 18, 2017]                 

Appliances:

It’s getting harder and harder to find dumb appliances. You’d think that with tens of millions of us Boomers descending into incipient senility that appliance manufacturers would be falling all over themselves to create the Jitterbug phone version of washers, dryers, stoves, microwaves and remotes.  [Sept. 21, 2017]

“Smart” appliances have totally run amok.  A friend’s dryer had an auto “wrinkle control” feature that fluffed up dried clothes every 30 seconds until the door was opened.  The friends went on vacation to Europe having put clothes in the dryer before they left. It was still fluffing when they returned. [Jan. 24, 2019]

Most of us are familiar with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of dealing with death, but I think they work equally well with appliance repair. [April 22, 2010]

Travel:

After our flight to Boston was delayed in 30-minute increments for eight hours only to be cancelled, it occurred to us that the reason TSA confiscates guns and knives isn’t just to thwart terrorists but to protect the gate agents.  [July 23, 2015] 

Somewhere in our fourth hour as hostages of a major airline at SeaTac, I couldn’t help but reflect that if our captors were terrorists, there would at least be someone negotiating for our release. [Nov. 12, 2007]

A close friend recently reported that her husband, a 59-year-old senior executive, has concluded that the nearly ten million miles of business travel he has logged in his career have taken too much of a toll on his health and he is taking early retirement.  It could be more of an adjustment than he thinks, she adds. She’s not sure he realizes his only friends are airline personnel. [Dec. 15, 2011]

And now, a few favorite Miscellaneous:

There’s probably nothing I enjoy more on the internet than misspelled moral outrage.  [April 7, 2011]

There are two phrases that always strike fear in my heart: “packed flat for easy assembly” and “it’s a simple outpatient procedure.” [November 6, 2014] 

Recently I hired a local high school kid to help me move some boxes, explaining that my husband was in Saudi Arabia. My teen helper’s brow puckered for a moment before he inquired, “Is that near Fresno?” [Feb. 10, 2011]

It’s not only modern men in power positions who are clueless about women.  If Ben Franklin were alive today, I’d love to whack him upside the head with my Susan B. Anthony T-shirt.  [Dec. 6, 2017]

People often ask me if my husband and children mind that I write about them.   Well, they might if they ever read my column.  [August 8, 2013]

Sometimes people ask me to help their kids with their college application essays under the assumption that I actually have any expertise.  I’m happy to help but first feel compelled to issue the disclaimer that my sum total writing training has been comprised of wantonly publishing often-ill-considered personal stories in my local paper. [Dec. 1, 2011]