Saturday, April 14, 2012

A New View

This is the first post that I started last year after we moved into the house ... and that I didn't finish. I'll tidy it up a little and post it. The little black filly is now a yearling and is doing well!

Our first successful birth this year - she's so sweet!

I'm sitting in the coach in Oregon at the Arcuri's farm. I flew in last Friday evening, nearly a week ago, and had dinner with friends (my best friend included) in Portland, and have been visiting family and friends since then. John gathered up the dogs and drove the coach up from Scottsdale a few days before I arrived and he has been at the barn every day that he's been here. Spring has been slow to arrive here in Oregon, as is the case sometimes, but with all of the rain has come grass that is belly deep to all of the horses and cows turned out on this beautiful farm and the goodness the flowers are breathtaking. It's Rhododendron season here and the colors are as startling as the giant blooms on the shrubs. It has been a fun time but I'm feeling ready to go home again to the desert and our new home.

"Pistol" grazing in Arcuri's pasture

Breezy in her new back yard in Scottsdale

I apologize once again for disappearing from the blogging scene. It has been a busy time since we got the approval from the bank on the short sale of our new house. I will stop and offer up a piece of advice, which you can either take or leave: Never buy a house on short sale no matter how good it looks. This is truly a case of, do as I say and not as I do, because we did it but it was one of the most frustrating and exhausting processes that either of us have ever been through. It also allowed us to buy our dream home, and what a dream it has been. One other thing that I've learned is that banks are ridiculous. Banks got the country into this economic mess and banks are holding us back from recovery. They are also operating without any rules or oversight on short sales and often times on the foreclosures. And the biggest banks are the biggest offenders. In all of my life I never dreamed that the institutions which hold and manage our money were so totally incompetent and arrogant. It is frightening. In the last six months I've had the unfortunate task of dealing directly with the financial institutions with which we do business. I can't remember ever being more frustrated or feeling more helpless to get information that belongs to us. Another unsolicited piece of advice: Never allow banks to hold your records. If you need them it will take an act of Congress to get what is legally yours. Enough of that.

Sunset in the back yard

More on the house and property that we are privileged to own and occupy. It is heaven. We wake up every morning and pinch ourselves to be sure that we aren't dreaming. It is 2.2 acres of desert in North Scottsdale, almost to Cave Creek. I can see The Boulders, a fabulous pile of smooth rocks that marks the entrance to a development of the same name, when I turn on our road. When I come in the driveway I pass huge saguaro cactus, stag horn cactus, plum trees, palo verde trees, roses, yucca, prickly pear, crown of thorns and more flowering beauties. The explosion of color in the spring in the desert was startling to me, just beautiful. We have road runners, quail, tons of mourning doves, a bob cat, coyotes, javelina (eeekkk!!), and beautiful colored lizards. One day I was sitting in my office and looked up to see a female bobcat and her two kittens stroll by my window. In the back yard there are all kinds of palms, a peach tree, apricot, orange and fig trees. We even have a bay leaf tree! Huge cactus and shade trees surround the pool and spa and there are rose beds against the house on both sides of the patio area. I potted a large gardenia shrub and it was beginning to bloom when I left a week ago. The perfume from the plant is mixed vanilla and orange blossom. Unbelievable.

We signed the papers on the house on March 11th and began the discovery process of a new home, one that we bought "as is". Thankfully John's son Jason came out and spent a week helping us to figure it all out. Bill Field and Shirley Rinehart came too and together we tackled the project. I was still in boxes and just started a new job working for National Horseman magazine and in the midst of all of this we received a letter in the mail ... the one that no one ever wants to get. "Dear Mr. and Mrs. Jones, We would like to review portions of your 2009 income tax return. Sincerely, THE IRS." When John handed me the letter and I read it I felt like what I would imagine it feels like to be tazered.

To start with, I keep really good records and if we had used a competent accountant that year I would not have been so wigged out by the request. But we didn't. This incompetent freak was recommended to us. After working with her for a couple of months to prepare our return I was really worried. She couldn't seem to read an email much less handle the entries for our business and prepare a return. A month before we were to file the return my dad died and a week and a half later Vic Arcuri died and by the time we got home from Oregon I was so dazed that I just wanted to sign the return and put it in the mail. But my little voice was screaming at me that this could be a disaster of epic proportions.

Last year we chose a great accountant, Daniel King of Switzer McGaughey (if you are living in Lexington ... or anywhere ... and are in need of a sharp, hard working, professional and fair guy to do your tax work). I was working with him to get our taxes done at the same time that we moved, had company, started a new job and received the LETTER. So I sat down and constructed an email to him letting him know that we had been contacted by the IRS for an audit. I also told him that we would be dealing with a mess. We assigned him our power of attorney and he contacted the auditor in Lexington, who he described as "an affable guy." That didn't match the image I had in my mind of sitting under a bare lightbulb being grilled by a gorilla in a suit and tie. I had ceased sleeping and commenced stressing out. I moved into a level of stress that had never been achieved in modern history. I had one question that played in a loop in my head day and night for a week. "How in the hell do I prepare this information so that they know that we aren't trying to do anything that we weren't supposed to do, given that it is probably going to look like we were doing things we weren't supposed to do?" What was driving that question was the 2 full pages of items that they were asking for. They wanted it all ... everything for the business and our personal stuff (all checks, deposits, credit card charges, mortgage statements, loan documentation, real estate closing statements, plus all of the paperwork, journals, and worksheets that were used to prepare the return and requests for specific areas as well). At the end of the week I was sitting out by the pool with a glass of wine in my hand while John tried without any success to cheer me out of my gloom and doom attitude. "It will be okay," he said. "We are going to jail," was my mental response.

Then it hit me. When mule headed determination hits me I become capable of moving mountains singlehandedly. I looked up and said, "They are going to get the best (effing) records that they have ever seen." I was scheduled to fly up here to Arcuri's place with John over Easter weekend. I cancelled that trip and sent John so that I could have a quiet house for four solid days. I dropped him at the airport, got enough groceries to keep me for the rest of the week and went home to start the IRS Project.

My first endeavor was to get the detailed profit and loss statement from our former accountant. That meant that I had to be ... nice. This is the only year that I have ever allowed someone besides me to do the bookkeeping entries for the business. BIG mistake. I had sent an email request to their office the week before and hadn't heard anything so I tried again and did finally receive the needed file along with a feeble attempt at explaining why they did something blatantly illegal. I printed it out and put my glasses on. I spent about ten minutes looking at it, took my glasses off and threw them on the desk. I looked at my two canine companions and said, "Guys, we're going to jail." I got up, went outside by the pool, had a good cry, pulled myself together and went back to the office. The next four days were brutal. And it got worse after that. The audit was scheduled for May 6th. Easter was on April 24th. I had to gather records from banks, our main bank PNC, which had our savings, personal checking and business checking accounts, and Central Bank in Lexington where I had my writing business account and an old personal account that I never closed after John and I got married. I had to gather credit card statements from Capital One because I allowed them to keep my records electronically and they wouldn't allow me to go back that far online to print the statements.

Again, do not allow banks to keep your records. Either print everything every month or make them send you statements. If you ever need them you will not get them without a fight. I could write volumes about gathering documentation from the banks but I'll tell you the most frustrating part of all: Capital One credit card company. You can call them, state your request, talk to a representative and pray that you get what you need. But you cannot call your representative back. I made a written request as soon as I knew that I would need our personal credit card statements for the entire year. I checked back with them by email regularly and was assured that "the request had been received." As I toiled over my desk organizing information, copying, printing, making regular trips to Office Max for more folders and more copier ink, plotting to blow up the office of the incompetent accountant (just fantasy but it helped to ease a little of the stress) I was going to the mailbox daily looking for those statements. As the date for the audit pelted toward me I became concerned that we wouldn't get them in time, if at all. Finally early in the first week of May I opened the mailbox and there was an envelope from Capital One. I tore it open. It was the statement for March 2009. That was it. ONE statement. I went ballistic. I emailed, I called, I ranted and railed. Finally I got a nice girl on the phone who genuinely wanted to help me. She agreed to have all of the statements faxed directly to the accountant, who already had the folders with the rest of what the IRS wanted. We had to devise a system to contact each other being as I couldn't call her. It was a timing thing. We wait X number of minutes or hours (allowing for a transaction) and then she called me back. Three or four calls later we had it all arranged. I emailed Daniel and asked him to watch for the statements on his fax. I waited. About fifteen minutes passed while I sat and listened to my heart beat, and then I heard the familiar "pling!" of an email coming in. It was Daniel. I opened it. He said, "Well, I got the statements. Twelve months of statements ... from 2008. Did you ask them for 2008?" I'm sure that our neighbors heard my scream from my office. I emailed back. "NO! I DIDN'T ASK FOR 2008!" He emailed back, "I didn't think so. They must have blown their entire customer service budget on the Viking ads." A good laugh helps to defuse a meltdown. So I waited for my girl at Capital One to call me. She was so hopeful that she had helped me that I couldn't yell at her. Besides, she had to request the fax to be sent from another department so I surmised that it probably wasn't her fault. When I told her what happened she was very apologetic for someone else's mistake and told me that she would get to the bottom of it before the day was over. And she did.

The day of the audit was one of the longer days of my life. I was at the National Horseman office doing some editing work most of the day. About 2:00 my phone rang so I grabbed it and dashed outside. Daniel told me that it had gone very well. He said that the auditor was bowled over by the organization of the material and how easy it was to determine what else he needed. "What ELSE does he NEED??!! He has all of what they asked for. He has more than what he asked for. He has my blood, sweat and tears!" Daniel assured me that it would be minor and that the auditor expected to close the file in short order without any changes to the tax owed.

The file was closed in October of 2011. A month later I received a check from the IRS for $2.70. (EFFING) unbelievable.

If we should receive another letter from the IRS I will promptly put the house on the market and move to Costa Rica.

Well ... maybe not.

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