Mercy from Minnesota

  • Article by: JUDY WRIGHT
  • Updated: June 19, 2014 - 6:11 PM

Late tax bill? Well you haven’t screwed up before, so we’ll let you off the hook this time.

Something odd is going on. It started when I didn’t file my taxes in April. There was some kind of screw-up in the accountant’s office, the taxes didn’t get done, and I ended up filing both my state and federal returns three weeks late. Great. Pay the penalties. Get on with your life.

Then last Thursday I got a letter from the Minnesota Department of Revenue. You’ve seen that letter. It looks official. It makes you cringe. You throw it on the kitchen counter and say you’ll open it when you’re more rested or maybe drunk. Because how likely is it that the envelope holds good news? Not very.

I opened the letter. It read: “Your Individual Income Tax account has come up for review because your payment was received late. Because this is the first time you have been late, we have abated (canceled) the penalty. If the penalty has already been paid, you will receive a credit or refund within 30 days.”

And my reaction was, “Since when?” Since when does the government at any level refuse to take money? How is it that my tax penalty wasn’t automatically sucked into the vortex that is the state’s general fund? What’s next? “Free Brats & Beer Night” at the Capitol?

It occurred to me that it would be nice to see this kind of altruism in other unlikely places. When I took a header off my bike last month and chipped my front tooth, did the dentist I’ve been going to for years say, “Well, this is the first time you’ve come in with a broken tooth, so hey, this one’s on us’’? He did not.

And when I brought my then-new car back to the Honda dealer with electrical problems, only to discover that a mouse had been chewing on the wiring, did they say: “This is your fourth Honda and your first service call due to a malicious rodent, so let’s just cover this under the warranty’’? They did not.

So thank you, Minnesota. Thank you, land of 10,000 lakes, the loon and the lady slipper. Thank you, faceless bureaucrat with a human heart. I am proud to call myself a citizen of this fine state!

Judy Wright lives in Wayzata.

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