Death and Taxes: IRS Informs Very Alive 94 Year Old Man He is Dead

(H/T: IJReview)

Following my earlier post, here’s some more IRS fun for us. It’s a news story that could be straight out of Kafka. Siegfried Meinstein is a 94 year old man who is alive and well and living at an assisted living facility near Columbus, Ohio, and according to the IRS, he’s dead. According to an article from Fox News:

The newspaper reports that the old-timer’s troubles began in April when he filed his tax return online through his accountant.  The IRS rejected the return and the reason given was because the filer was dead according to the Social Security Administration.

A few days later, Meinstein and his son went to the Social Security office in Columbus and were told that their records did not list the elder Meinstein as deceased. The office gave the Meinsteins a letter to send to the IRS. They did only to have the IRS kick it back to Social Security.

There was some back-and-forth and then Meinstein and his son visited the local IRS office where they were informed that the problem would be resolved.

Instead, the senior citizen received a letter from the IRS that said, “We are unable to process your tax return. Our records indicate that the person identified as the primary taxpayer…was deceased prior the tax year show on the tax form.”

It’s tempting to suggest that he should accept his premature (legal) demise and stop paying his taxes. In addition to that being illegal, it should also be noted that the IRS makes the worst private collection agencies look kindhearted and polite by comparison. At the same time, does it really surprise anyone that a living and healthy (as a 94 year old can be) man is having this much trouble convincing a government bureaucracy he still has a pulse? Josef K. and the land surveyor K. could probably sympathize with him.

The Columbus Dispatch, Meinstein’s local paper and the media outlet that first wrote on his story, has this to add about the relatively peculiar struggles the WWII veteran is facing:

Social Security does make mistakes. On average, it kills off about 1,000 living people every month, according to the SSA’s Office of the Inspector General. The walking dead usually get their records corrected quickly, though, and the process is relatively simple.

Not so in Meinstein’s case. Social Security doesn’t think he’s dead and apparently never has, Ron said. The problem seems to be isolated to the IRS, which is holding firm on its position.

The IRS, to its credit, appears to be working on the case, but the glacial pace at which the organization, or any government bureaucracy, works means this could be an unresolved issue for months to come. At the risk of being morbid, it’s entirely possible Meinstein might actually be dead by the time the IRS figures out he’s alive.* Still, he doesn’t seem to be troubled by being supposedly dead in his daily life. From the Dispatch‘s article:

“It isn’t really a problem in my daily life,” he said, sitting at a table in his Upper Arlington assisted-living facility. “Everybody accepts my money.”

So, why am I bringing this story to your attention? As I noted at the beginning, it’s useful to remind people this is the same agency that is administering Obamacare. Of course, this is in addition to being an excellent example of what a faceless, results-averse bureaucracy can do, whether you think it’s well-regulated or not. If you need an sign of where things could be heading, just remember that the same firm that botched the Obamacare rollout is going to help the IRS supposedly get its implementation of the Affordable Care Act right.

For your sakes, I hope all of you have health insurance and your tax situation in order, heh.

*=I personally wish him many more happy and healthy years, for the record.