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The trouble with money

"That's the thing about twins -- basically, they're a conspiracy of two."

--Detective Joe Fontana, played by actor Dennis Farina, "Law & Order", season 16, episode #E5317, "Dining Out", first-run 10pm March 2, 2005

I've forgotten exactly when I stopped caring. Which probably really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, when you put it that way. I mean, if you stopped caring, then something must have ceased to be of importance, right?

So I went to check on the status of my tax refund. I typed in the handy little web address provided to me by TurboTax.com which takes me to the website of Santa Barbara Bank & Trust who is "handling" the "direct" deposit of my refund monies. After I logged in, I read the message which says,

"SBBT has received all or part of your income tax refund.

"We have received IRS notification that your refund in the amount of $x.xx will be deposited with SBBT on Friday, 3/4/2005. As soon as we receive your refund, we will make all authorized deductions and deposit the balance of the refund to your account. Please allow 1-2 business days for your bank to post the deposit to your account."

The deductions come to a grand total of $46.40 which breaks down this way: $24.95 electronic filing fee; $19.95 SBBT "User Fee" (this is the charge for getting them to "directly" deposit what's left of my refund after the deductions into my account, which is the biggest pile of bunk I've ever had the pleasure to smell); $1.50 in state taxes.

Okay fine. I was aware of these charges and agreed to them long before I ever established an account with a bank three time zones away just so I could have my tax refund directly deposited.

And I even understand this is probably all part of TurboTax's agreement with SBBT, which probably goes something like (more or less), "You handle our direct deposits, we'll give you a cut which you can deduct from the taxpayers' refund money, if they so choose."

Fine.

What I have a problem with is, why did TurboTax have to make such an agreement in the first place??? Why in the hell couldn't they have handled my direct deposit themselves -- much like my employer handles the direct deposit of my paycheck -- rather than go through a third party and then take the money out of MY pocket? This doesn't seem fair, and frankly, I'm not buying the whole "corporate America" argument either. I think this is a scam. Looks like a scam, smells like a scam ... could it be a scam?

But who do I tell? And how do I get something done about it? And why should anyone care what happens to me, a plain ol' nobody in the Midwest?

I think this is the point where I stopped caring.

For one thing, my refund is so pathetically small anyway, taking $40 bucks out of it is disproportionately large, comparatively speaking.

But it's not so much the money as it is the delay that's being put on me getting money that's rightfully owed to me!! The IRS is depositing my money into SBBT's account -- why couldn't they have just deposited the money directly into my own personal bank account???

I wonder what would happen if I contacted the IRS about it? I wonder if I'd get anyone who would listen? I wonder, what if I ...

Ah, that's too much thinking. Monty, the retired Vietnam vet I used to work with back home would say to me, half-sarcastically, half-serious, "See, there you go thinking again," whenever I'd start to question the policies and procedures employed by the powers-that-be who signed our paychecks. And I ALWAYS found myself agreeing with him after a while.

It still bugs me.

But I've found simply saying a quiet prayer to the God I believe in accomplishes far, far more than raising a fuss of my own ever does. So I guess that's what I'll do. Pray quietly that this scam gets revealed.

Oo -- I know!! Dateline. Of course!!! They *LOVE* doing stories like that! Tom Brokaw started a series of stories on NBC Nightly News called, "The Fleecing of America". I wonder if they're still doing that???

And if I'm the first person to call their attention to this, I'd be REAL surprised.

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