A couple of weeks ago, we brought you the tale of Don Dunklee, who claimed that he was audited by the IRS for a paltry $23 in vegetables from his garden. At the time, we wondered aloud how Mr Dunklee could have come to such a strange conclusion, considering that it's pretty obvious the IRS's efforts at closing the tax gap would be spent in better places than the organic vegetable farmer dynamic.
And as it happens from time to time, the subject of our post reached out to us directly (Big 4 CEOs should take a hint) to explain the situation further.
You see, Don - who is a bit of inventor but not when it comes to stories about tax audits - farms as a hobby and a woman who accepted some vegetables from him stuffed a wad of cash in his pocket that he reluctantly accepted:
I work off farm for Walgreens as does my wife. We reported our entire incomes from our employer as well as the $23, and used only the standard deductions provided by the IRS as we do not have enough "expenses" to write off deductions. The $23 was a lady looking at starting her own organic farm who I refused money from. She insisted to the point she would have been offended had I not kept the money she shoved in my pocket. I kept the cash out of respect to her and reported it as additional farm income. I have a 23 acre farm that I have been building for 27 years with the infrastructure so I can have a farm business when I retire in a few years. People visit my farm to see my off grid solar/wind system, my solar charged electric scooter [Ed. note: see above], and my organic vegetable production. I give away any vegetables anyone wants as I grow much more than I can harvest for myself, in part to learn how to produce enough to make a small retirement income later on, and I like to show off my veggies/farm/lifestyle.
Then Don informed us that he fell victim to the Geithner tax malady:
I do my own taxes. I tried TurboTax for the first time (won't again) and the $23 was reported, rightly so, as farm income. (investigator suggested I can make up to $400.00 and should consider reporting on the other income line rather than farm income during the end of our interview when she agreed our taxes were correct and made no changes). TurboTax created a form F, farm income for the $23, reported. I claimed no expenses for growing, as I do not have a true farm business.
Then Don gets to the crux of the argument behind his belief that the audit was not "random":
Farming is my passion/hobby. Had our audit been a true random audit I believe we would have had a general agent and general tax officer doing the audit with questions and info requested related to all of my employment reported. I believe this was a targeted audit as the title of the investigator was "small business and self employed" which does not fit the nature of my return. Her questioning was often off topic from the particulars of my return (fishing?). I would not have a problem if the IRS would be honest and say something to the effect, "we would like to audit your return as we see some irregularities we need clarified." This might help build trust in the IRS. Knowing they have powers that some consider above or outside of the law in how they deal with taxpayers I was worried. The entire process is intimidating. I do not like feeling like a criminal for being honest. I could not afford legal help, which their literature suggested, further intimidating information they provide creates the impression one is in trouble. I hope this helps clear it up a bit for you.
Giving this a little more thought, we aren't really surprised since the IRS has shown the willingness to shake down taxpayers for a sum that wouldn't buy you a Hershey bar in a Mad Men episode. Don told us that he doesn't have any ill will towards the IRS but he wonders if sometimes they can be a tad misguided, "I do have a lot of respect for the IRS and their mandated task, however I wonder if their very task generates a lot of problems."
Not sure if the IRS is into self-reflection but that's why we have TIGTA, s'pose. Thanks to Don for reaching out to us and now that his solar-powered scooter is getting a little more exposure, KPMG (and other firms looking to reduce their carbon footprint) may have a decent alternative to the sherpas.