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The evil day

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Apr 15, 2003

On this date each year I recall the time when I received a threatening letter from the IRS, saying that I had failed to report $810,000 in income for the previous year.

I wondered, for a moment, whether possibly I had won a lottery, and nobody had told me. If someone could show me to that $816,200, I was willing to pay taxes on it. But it certainly wasn't in my bank account.

So I called the friendly IRS office, and explained that I had accurately reported all my income, and that $816,200 was a figment of someone's imagination. The perky IRS agent quickly replied, "Can you prove that you didn't have another $816,200 in income?"

Of course I couldn't prove it. Could you?

My story has a happy ending-- more or less. Rummaging through my records, I found a receipt for $81.62 in income, which had been duly included in my original return. Apparently a quirky computer (or more likely, a sleepy data-entry clerk) had moved the decimal point four spaces to the right. After only 6 or 7 phone calls, I convinced the IRS that this error accounted for my phantom windfall, and I did not owe additional taxes.

Happy Tax Day!

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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