When your postal carrier knocks on the door and says "this is from the IRS, and I'll need a signature"....your heart skips a beat. Even if you have nothing to worry about, you can't help but swallow a little harder for a moment. The IRS. The guys that got Capone. The guys who nailed me for a hundred-dollar-fine a couple decades ago when I FAILED to report $55 for a stringer payment. The Chicago station that sent me the check did so right away...but they sent the Form 1099 months later to an old Wisconsin address and it never got forwarded to me in L-A. My tax man said "just pay the fine". I'm still sore about that.
At least yesterday it was the postal carrier, and not a Federal Marshal. Shortly after we bought our suburban Madison home 11 years ago, we started getting official-looking mail for a person who's never lived at the address. We're the second owners of the home, and we essentially stole it from a builder who built it for himself...and after living there a few months his wife served him divorce papers. Nasty. At the close when we purchased it, the temperature in the escrow company's office was approximately 15 degrees below zero. Those folks really didn't like each other any more. But the official-looking mail we were getting was not for either of them.
As usual, I digress. My wife and I both know the person to whom the mail was addressed, and that's all I'll say about it. At first, we just put "not at this address" on the letters and stuck them back in the mailbox for the carrier to deal with. That, of course, changed nothing. About five years ago, when I was still working as a news anchor, I called the IRS's media contact person in Milwaukee and explained to her that we kept getting IRS mail for this person, and told her specifically how they could find him. It's not that hard. Suffice it to say he's not attempting to hide in any way. That, of course, changed nothing.
Then, a couple years ago, feeling a sense of civic duty, I would place the unopened envelope in a letter, address it to the IRS Center from whence it came, and briefly explain that the person they were trying to reach was not at this address, and had never lived there. I sent back letters to the IRS folks in Kansas City, Austin, and Atlanta as they arrived. This summer I just gave up. I must have made 40 contacts with the IRS over the past decade, each obviously ignored. After all, this is where the computer says he lives.
When my wife came home from work last night, I told her about this escalated attempt by the feds to get in touch with this person....SIGNATURE REQUIRED. This spun off into a conversation about how big a task President Obama will have, not only getting the Republicans to horse-trade, but about how sometimes big government agencies, like big business, can be so damned ignorant. Like that fellow who told the SEC that Madoff was a fraud, a year ago - and nobody listened. She said, summing up the conversation about the IRS and its ineptitude in finding this guy, "you could probably Google him and find him in one second". So, earlier this morning I did. It took less than a quarter of a second and five of the ten listings on the first page Google displayed were for this particular person, and the first one led to a site with his work address and phone number.
Our government inaction.