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.
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.”
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.
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