PENINSULA: IRS error rattles Peninsula taxpayers

Like other Jefferson and Clallam county residents, George and Margaret Geasey accepted the Internal Revenue Service's offer of a later tax-return deadline as a result of the Feb. 28 earthquake.

As the IRS instructed, they wrote “Washington State Earthquake” across the top of their income tax return in large, clear, red letters.

They returned the form with a check for the amount they owed, making sure it was postmarked by April 30 so they would get the two-week reprieve from the regular April 16 deadline.

But due to a foul-up the IRS can't explain, its Ogden, Utah, processing office generated notices to the Geasey family of Port Angeles and about 200,000 residents on the North Olympic Peninsula and in 20 other Washington counties, demanding payment for interest and/or penalties for the “late” filings.

Not only did the agency mess up by sending out the “request for payment” notices, it compounded the error, according to IRS officials, by defending the notices when some taxpayers called to complain.

Said Shawn George, a spokeswoman in the IRS's Seattle office:

“We can't explain what happened. We're trying to find out what went wrong,” she said. “We certainly apologize.”

If you're a Jefferson or Clallam County taxpayer who mistakenly got a notice saying you owe late-payment interest and/or penalties, mail a copy of the notice to:

IRS Customer Service

915 Second Ave., Mail Stop W415S

Seattle WA 98174.

Or fax it to 206-220-5550.

Write “Washington State Earthquake” across the top and the words “abate interest” or “abate penalty.”

Should you write it in big, clear red letters?

It couldn't hurt, Internal Revenue Service spokeswoman Shawn George said.

More details appear in the Friday/Saturday editions of the Peninsula News, on sale throughout Clallam and Jefferson counties. Or click onto “Subscribe” to order your copy via U.S. mail.

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