Off to See the Wizard

This post is the fifth installment of a series about the innocent spouse relief provision of the IRS Tax Code.


When I first found out about the Board of Equalization I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.  Somewhere in the valley fog between the coast and mountains of California was a wonderful group of human beings just waiting to save me from a crushing tax debt with a wave of their magic wands!  I couldn’t wait to plead my case, to tell them what I’d been through, and to have them severely chastise the evil taxmen who’d been hounding me unmercifully.   


“I’m so glad there’s a Board of Equalization – I’m sure they’re absolutely lovely people!”

Of course, I had a ton of apple strudel in my noodle. 

From the book Willful Avoidance (written from the POV of an exasperated tax attorney) 

“The Board of Equalization? What is it?” Maya asked.
“It’s a them. You vote for them every four years.” It was amazing to him how many people had no idea how tax laws were enforced and adjudicated. No idea. Living each day blissfully ignorant and apathetic about tax laws that could destroy them for the slightest of infractions. Voting every four years for a representative to the Board of Equalization with no idea why, their bios and statements of policy and intent ignored or used to line bird cages. “Among other things, the Board of Equalization is the court of last resort for the taxpayer. There are five members of the board. Four are elected separately—from each of the four different districts of California,” he explained. How much of this did she really want to know, he wondered. Despite her many insecurities and her tendency to overdramatize, she seemed intelligent, “The fifth member is always the state controller. He or she generally serves as the chairman of the board.”


“I will take my case to the Land of Mordor and plead with the Evil Sauron to free me from an unfair debt.”

As in the story, quickly and without a hint of ambiguity, my lawyer informed me that there was no wizard hiding behind the curtains in Sacramento. Just a group of politicians who probably wouldn’t even read my twenty-six pieces of evidence but instead hand the appeal over to a first year law student to read and summarize.  The more he went on about their procedures and possible conservative biases the more I felt like Frodo from the The Lord of the Rings.  

Next: Confronting the Board of Equalization.

Images from

Secrets of a Kick Ass Tax Woman

So your spouse has left you holding the bag for an enormous tax burden, what do you do? 

For those of you new to this blog, this post is continuation of a series about innocent spouse relief which is a provision of the US Income Tax Code that provides for relief from a shared tax burden.  It was my misfortune to have to apply for this relief and so I’m sharing the sad truths I discovered as well as tips on how to survive.

 Let’s recap what’s been covered:

  • Fresh from the Trash Bin – the tax man tells you your tit’s in the ringer and there’s no way out but you have no idea why.  You’ve been a dutiful wife and done as your husband asked.

    The ideal innocent Spouse Candidate

    The ideal innocent Spouse Candidate

  • Five Deadly Sins in the Eyes of the Taxman – according to the IRS, you shouldn’t have been a dutiful wife in the first place.
  • Three Easy Pieces – the three requirements for even filing for innocent spouse relief.

In desperation you may be tempted as I was to try the following first:

1.) Divorce your husband hoping that the tax man will clear you.

This does not work, friends. But it will make you feel better and, if you are like I was, a stay-at-home mom who had to go back to work at minimum wage jobs, it will make you look more pathetic to the IRS which is a good thing.  The more pathetic and stupid you look, the better your chances.

2.) Beg for mercy from the taxman.  

Ha!  If you’re lucky, your case will be assigned to a kind-hearted agent willing to help you file for innocent spouse relief. Keep in mind, tax collectors receive their bonuses and promotions based on how much money they bring in and not on their compassionate treatment of taxpayers.

 As luck would have it, the IRS agent who heard my case, helped me file for relief.  However, the state of California made it clear that I’d better hire a lawyer if I didn’t want to have my house seized and my income attached.   


The ideal lawyer but alas, most attorneys don’t like to go to court and would much rather get a settlement ahead of time.

If you think a tax attorney will plead for complete relief from an unfair tax burden, forget it.  They will urge you to work out a settlement.  They will tell you it’s not wise to fight because, you see, in the court of tax law you are guilty and must prove your innocence.  But they will help you to understand the requirements for innocent spouse.  Trust me, unless you’re a lawyer, reading provisions from the tax code will drive you insane.

I’m sure you’re wondering what the actual process for requesting innocent spouse relief is.  Here goes:

  • First you complete a form (8857) that lists your assets, your income, and debts.
  • Next you get three of your long time neighbors to write letters attesting to your meager and miserable lifestyle during the year in question.  (Good luck to you on that one.  Most people are very squeamish about getting involved with the tax man in any way, shape or manner) 
  • Last you provide proof – as much as you can get ahold of – that your spouse hid information about finances from you.  I had twenty-six letters from my divorce attorney. I called them “The Exhibits A-Z.”  

Finally bundle up the whole shebang and sent it to the taxman. Then wait for their response.

If the answer comes thusly:

It is clear that appellant has failed to 
meet her burden of overcoming rebuttable
 correctness of respondent’s determination.

This is taxman speak for “your appeal has been rejected.”

Do not despair, as I did, it need not be the end.

Next – The court of last resort...


No, the court of last resort is not a heavenly intervention!

Songs of Paper: #MusicTuesday Guest Post by Duke Miller

From Mary Rowen’s blog – the incomparable poet and our friend Duke.

Today, I’m thrilled to have Duke Miller as a guest for Music Tuesday. “Songs of Paper” is an excerpt from his forthcoming book, On Damaged Ground.


I dedicate this story to Pantopicon. She is a writer working at and loves Jacques Derrida and Japanese robots. She writes by deleting. We like to pretend that we are pretending as we deconstruct our way to nothing.   DM

The Autumn of the Patriarch The Autumn of the Patriarch

Songs of Paper 

(What a shame about me…we could be high…where are we Mikey, on the moon?)

I am certain that “The Autumn of the Patriarch” by Gabriel Marquez is a good place to start a story about music.

There are few mentions of music in the book and for most people the paper is silent like the tips of soft fingers. That doesn’t bother me. Neither does the fact that many of the sentences in the book…

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Good Grief!


My post from the beginning of 2015 still seems appropriate! So I’m reposting it with a few minor additions.

Well folks, t’is officially the year 2015.  That other year – an old sod called 2014 – is dead and gone and I have nothing to say but…good grief!!

The good I can sum up in one word – you!  Because of all you lovely folks who’ve stopped  and commented on my meanderings I haven’t given up blogging and taken up knitting. A good thing as I get suicidal with knitting needles in my hands – I’m that hopeless with yarn.


Twilight Zone episode entitled “Number 12 looks Just like Me,” circa 1964 which postulates that in 2000 we’ll look exactly like super models whether we want to or not!

The grief, oh my. I think we can all agree there was too much grief last year, including the unspeakable horror of planes falling from the skies (2015 griefs: the refugee crisis, the attack on Paris, the insane rhetoric of the IRA in defense of lax gun laws and the buffoonery of the Republican debates, to name just a few).  Speaking of bizarre incidents, if you watched any episodes of the Twilight Zone marathon that ran stateside on New Year’s Day you probably noticed that many of the episodes were set in the year 2000.  In the fifties, sci-fi writers apparently envisioned the turn of the century as a time when we’d all have our own personal robots and take vacations on Mars.  A lot has happened since the black and white days of television which I’m sure the writers could not have envisioned but here it is 2015 and I’m absolutely certain man will not live on Mars in my lifetime.

Others, such as musician Prince, envisioned the turn of the century as the end of civilization. 

 Party Like it’s 1999

1999But when I woke up this morning,
Coulda sworn it was judgment day.
The sky was all purple,
There were people running everywhere,
Trying to run from the destruction,
You know I didn’t even care.
Yeah, everybody’s got a bomb,
We could all die any day
But before I’ll let that happen,

I’ll dance my life away…

Then there was the Y2K bug, a glitch in the computer programs running the world (the financial industries, the airlines, the hospitals, etc., etc) that some predicted would bring to a halt life as we knew on January 1, 2000. Gun sales soared, survivalists stocked up for prolonged life in bunkers, and many companies shelled out big bucks for Y2K experts.  Well, gun companies made money, bunker salesmen made money and tech guys struck it rich but for the rest of us, life went on. 

Mayan-CalendarAnother predicted end of the world was 2012, when the Mayan calendar ran out.  However, that proved to be another technological glitch having more to do with the foibles of man than the apocalypse.

So I’m not even going to comment on what this year will bring.  Probably not what I expect but that’s life, dealing with the unexpected.


From the web site where there are instructions on how to make this heavenly galette!

By the way, to all who celebrate, a blessed Feast of the Epiphany.  This day always brings to mind memories of a beautiful French woman and her spectacular Galette des Rois!

Here’s to you Frannie!