I received a nasty-gram yesterday from the County Treasury Department. In it was a reprint of my school tax bill, the return of the check I had used to attempt to pay my school tax bill, and a form with a couple of check boxes explaining why they couldn’t accept my payment. Apparently, their reasons were two-fold. First, my payment was late, and second, it was for the wrong amount. Although the only reason the amount was wrong is that I hadn’t tacked on the “interest charges” for being late, mostly because I thought the damn payment was on time.
My first reaction was to dive for the file folder with the bill in it. After all, I knew I had paid on time, and dammit, someone was gonna get a piece of my mind. Although, as it turns out, I read the due date wrong and did actually send the payment late. The trouble was, I had a fair bit of worked up rage at this point. Rage which was intended for some hapless clerk at the county office. Rage which was now only rightfully directed back at myself. And that just wasn’t right.
If I’ve learned one thing from eight years of the Bush administration, it’s that no matter how bad things get, it is not your fault. It was with this in mind that I studied the bill closely. The date I erroneously thought was the due date was in large bold type in several places on the bill. Meanwhile, the actual due-by date was in a small non-emphasized font in a non-obvious place on the paper. Clearly I was being intentionally misled by government forces. This was all some sort of conspiracy to get me to pay late so they could charge me a ridiculously outsized late fee. In fact, in looking at the form they sent, it warned me that if my tax payment was not postmarked within two days, that an additional penalty would be imposed. Ahhh, it was beginning to make sense now. You see, if they had cashed my initial check and just billed me for the penalty, then there would not be nearly so big a threat hanging over my head. After all, my unpaid bill would have been closer to $100. But because they refused my initial check, they could ding me for not paying any taxes at all. The bastards!
By this point I was in full rationalization mode. This was no longer just about me. For the sake of my kids I needed to show that this was not some sort of genetically inheritable behavior. I had been set up to fail. This was all a scheme by County Executive Maggie Brooks to balance the county budget by duping innocent tax payers into late payments so they could collect extra fees. Yes… yes… it was gelling in my mind.
However, by the light of day, it would appear that the reality was simply that my mind was turning to Jello, which is not quite the same thing. I screwed up. And I also owe Kim an apology. For years I’ve teased her about her habit of just paying bills when they show up rather than when they are due. However, every cumulative quarter I’ve earned in interest by holding on to my money for an extra 20 days here and there was just completely eaten by the stupid tax I just paid. Maybe she’s on to something.