1. Archive

Sorry, wrong number, IRS is told

My husband, who is 70 years young, got a letter from the IRS claiming he owes $5,194 in overdue taxes for 1992. They say the tax stems from real estate rental. The income was reported by CB Commercial Real Estate Group in Los Angeles.

We have never owned property anywhere and have never visited California. We rent the apartment we occupy and have lived solely on Social Security checks since 1989.

My husband recently took a small job to supplement our income. We do not even own a car.

I have all kinds of proof that we lived in Seminole in 1992 _ bank records, etc. The IRS said they are not interested in our proof.

They said to contact this California company immediately because, if we don't, they will seize our wages and property.

I called CB Commercial, but they left me on hold for five minutes so I hung up. That was too costly. Now the IRS says I should write a registered letter.

It sounds as if someone made an error. Have you any suggestions as to how we can resolve this so we can live without being harassed by the IRS? Helen & Dave Johnson

Response: It seems the $5,194 is really owed by someone whose property is managed by his company, said James Hochman of CB Commercial.

The problem arose when someone entered the wrong number in the client's Social Security box on the 1099 form, he said. It turned out to be your husband's Social Security number, and that's why the IRS took off after him.

Hochman said he interceded and got a 45-day hold put on the matter. An investigation cleared up the problem, he said, and the only question remaining is whether CB Commercial or the IRS made the mistake.

Clients do not generally mind paying taxes on commercial property, he said, because after depreciation they can usually tell the IRS they lost money on the investment and that provides them with a tax shelter.

The IRS is happy, Hochman said, and should harass you no more.

They won without majority popular vote

How many times has a U.S. president been elected by the electoral college yet did not receive the majority popular vote? A.D.

Response: The three presidents whose opponents received more popular votes were John Quincy Adams in 1824, Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876 and Benjamin Harrison in 1888.

Breach of contract,

employer contends

For four years I worked for Rent-a-Hand Inc. doing health-care work. My last job was for a Mrs. Short.

I would send a time sheet signed by my client to the office. The office would send a bill to the client, who would pay the office, which would in turn pay me.

When I quit on May 31 I was owed two weeks' pay. Rent-a-Hand refused to pay me in full even though the client had paid them. They owe me $300.

I worked hard for that money and would appreciate any help you can give me. Lorraine Curran

Response: According to Carol Ehrenkranz, president of Rent-a-Hand, your contract states that you must compensate her company for its share of any fees you receive "directly or indirectly" from clients to whom you were referred by the company, not only while you are employed there but for a period of three months after you leave.

Ehrenkranz said you continued to work for Mrs. Short after you quit Rent-a-Hand with the intent of accompanying this client to Maine for the summer.

Rent-a-Hand secretary Tina Sorrentino said that, when she made a delivery to Mrs. Short's home on June 7, you answered the door. She said you told her you were there "as a friend."

When she said your contract did not permit you to do that, you told her that it was none of her business what you did as a friend.

It is Rent-a-Hand's position that you breached your contract.

Insurance lapsed

before accident

Just a few questions.

I totaled my car swerving to miss a big ice chest on the Howard Frankland Bridge. Neither my insurance company nor the financing institution had notified me that my insurance coverage had lapsed.

This was a fairly new car. Am I still liable to pay it off? Isn't the financing institution held liable as well? Can I sue the city or state for a cluttered, unsafe highway? P.D.

Response: Yes, no and good luck.

Responsible drivers do not let their insurance coverage lapse, nor do they blame everybody else for their lapses of memory or poor driving habits.

Action solves problems and gets answers for you. If you have a question, or your own attempts to resolve a consumer complaint have failed, write: Times Action, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or call your Action number, 893-8171, or, outside of Pinellas, (800) 333-7505, ext. 8171, to leave a recorded request.

Requests will be accepted only by mail or voice mail; calls cannot be returned. We will not be responsible for personal documents, so please send only photocopies. If your complaint concerns merchandise ordered by mail, we need copies of both sides of your canceled check.

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