We know a Charleston executive who invested $130,000 in a BB&T portfolio in 2008, just before the stock market sank. His holdings dwindled to $94,000 worth, then slowly recovered. By 2010, he broke even. He never withdrew any earnings from the portfolio.
Then IRS slapped him with a $15,000 claim for 2010 taxes on his "income" from the investment -- although he got no income. His accountant fought the claim, and said IRS owed him a refund instead.
Then IRS countered with a claim that he owed $952 tax on the nonexistent income. How could he owe income tax when there was no income? How did a $15,000 demand drop below $1,000? Finally he paid, not understanding the mess, but wanting to be rid of it.
Why is bureaucracy so confusing and chaotic? Many middle-class people cannot file income tax returns by themselves because the process is baffling, a maze of mind-boggling technicalities. They need experts to cope with the tangles.
We know a computer specialist who entered business for himself and paid a variety of state business taxes. But state officials claimed he never paid, and threatened legal action. After he tracked down his canceled checks, the bureaucrats apologized.
Other Charleston business figures have told us similar tales of bureaucracy nightmares and bewildering tax hassles -- of lost time, energy and sleep.
Dealing with state and federal agencies shouldn't require an expensive crew of lawyers and tax experts. We wish bureaucracy could become more user-friendly.