To be fair, I didn’t cheat on my taxes; my “accountant” cheated on my taxes. And it wasn’t cheating in the way that our president does; it was just a couple of white lies that might get you a slightly better refund. Or at least that’s what I thought it was going to be.
When your friend says he has an accountant who “gets great refunds, and you don’t even have to meet with him,” along with a smorgasbord of other red-flag descriptions, do not collect $200, do not pass go, and head directly to your nearest H&R Block clutching your rosary.
But I was 27, living in New York City, and getting paid journalism money. It’s expensive there, if you haven’t heard. So, I rolled the dice and sent this black hat money man my W-2 and a check for around $200. I felt like Danny Ocean about to execute the perfect crime. Soon, I would be swimming in the IRS equivalent of Andy Garcia’s riches.
I waited. I hadn’t heard anything from the tax man. So, I figured everything went swimmingly. I periodically checked the IRS website to see what my refund would be, but no data was showing up. The issue had to be something wrong with the IRS website and not with the sneaky man I never met. Right? Right?!
As the reality of the situation began to catch up with me, I called his office to see if my taxes had been filed. The receptionist assured me that they had been filed. I was skeptical but figured there wasn’t much I could do but wait and see.
Finally, my tax refund arrived. And, oh, did it arrive — to the tune of around $3,000! See, sometimes good things do happen to bad people. I’m not going to tell you my salary, but rest assured it was not nearly high enough to get a $3,000 refund.
The money had been spent, probably on boring things like debt and late-night McDonald’s runs. I was living a life on the lamb until I found a letter in my mailbox that informed me I was being audited.
I did the first thing any hardened criminal would do: I called an adult. My best friend’s dad is a CPA, and examined my return. He called to ask about all of the deductions I had taken. “So, how far do you drive your car every day?” he asked. I thought he was kidding. Only masochists have cars in New York. “It says here that you spend this many dollars on laundering your uniform for work.” Unless by “uniform” he meant my wardrobe of short-sleeve Van Heusen button downs, my tax man had made up some really bold lies. Turns out this guy claimed I drove like 400 miles to work every day and a host of other idiotic claims that would raise the red flags of even the greenest IRS agent.
To make a long story short, my friend’s dad filed an appropriate tax statement; I got put on a payment plan by the IRS; my friend who recommended the tax preparer got busted too (good, right?) And two years later, two IRS investigators, who found me through a bitchy Yahoo review I wrote about the tax preparer, bought me donuts at a local Dunkin’ while grilling me for two hours about this guy. This wasn’t his first offense, and this time he went to jail. Now, he’s a business development manager for the Red Cross.