2015-08-21 / Front Page

Town, IRS in long-running game of ‘tag’

Arundel officials respond to $4,000 fine for ‘non-compliance’
By Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

ARUNDEL — It may comfort some to know that frustration with bureaucratic brouhaha is not limited to individuals and businesses. Government can also have a problem with government.

According to an Aug. 5 email sent to Arundel selectmen by Town Manager Keith Trefethen, the town was contacted by the Internal Revenue Service in May and advised it was being audited. Specifically, the IRS wants to examine the town’s payroll numbers for 2012.

The notice came while Trefethen’s predecessor, interim Town Manager Jack Turcotte, was still holding down the fort. Turcotte dutifully packaged together all of the information requested by the IRS and sent it off via fax machine, Trefethen said.

However, Trefethen said the town soon got a letter from the IRS, faulting it for failure to comply. So, in July town office staff recollected the data and shipped it off again, via registered mail.

At the Aug. 10 meeting of the board of selectmen, Trefethen reported the U.S. Postal service sent back a receipt saying someone at the IRS had signed for the package.

But it was a case of lather, rinse, repeat. A postal receipt said the IRS accepted the documents, but again an IRS letter said no package was ever received. But this second tuttut came with a little something extra, Trefethen said — a non-compliance fine.

According to Velma Jones Hayes, vice chairman of the board of selectmen, the fine was for $4,000.

“We’re playing tag with the IRS,” she said on Monday. “What can I say, it’s the IRS. Apparently, someone there doesn’t have their act together. It just makes you angry and disgusted when you have someone in the town office who has diligently followed instructions and sent absolutely everything they’ve asked for. Twice.”

Make that three times. On Aug. 4, town office staff placed a call to the IRS office to try and get the issue cleared up. According to Trefethen, after waiting on hold for “over an hour,” the town was advised it had the wrong IRS line and was given another to try. Rather than waste staff time at a repeated exercise in futility, Trefethen said the requested data was packaged up and shipped off a third time, again via fax.

Now it’s just a matter of waiting to see what the IRS does next.a

“We’ve sent the IRS everything they have asked for, exactly,” Trefethen said. “Our next move may be to contact the members of our congressional delegation to involve them and find out what’s going on.”

Trefethen was out on vacation until Aug. 19 and not available for comment on Monday. Jason Nedeau, chairman of the board of selectmen, did not respond to a request for comment by deadline Tuesday morning. As the next person down the totem pole, Jones Hayes said the “good news in all of this is that the IRS is not saying our books are off, or that we did anything wrong.

“This is just the same standard IRS audit any person might go thorough, except they are not looking at income and taxes paid, they’re looking at the withholding of taxes on our payroll.”

Jones Hayes said, in the grand scheme of things, $4,000 is not a lot of money.

“But I don’t want to pay for something that is not our fault,” she said. “We complied with what was asked for.”

But the even better news for selectmen may have come from Trefethen.

“Rest assured, I’m not sending any money to them,” he said.

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