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The state of oblivion
Oct. 6, 2017
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by Ivan Raconteur

It’s difficult to tell sometimes if the State of Minnesota operates on complete oblivion, or out of contempt for residents. Perhaps it is both.

I avoid dealing with the state whenever possible, because interactions with the evil empire seem to result in frustration.

Recently, however, I had a question I thought was simple enough to be within the realm of something even a state employee could answer. It appears I was wrong.

It started when I filed my property tax refund in July.

I promptly received an automated email reply from the state acknowledging receipt of my return and providing a confirmation number for reference.

I was surprised and impressed.

Unfortunately, that was when the fun ended.

The department of revenue lavishly provides contact information, including local and toll free phone numbers. What they don’t tell you is that you are unlikely to get any answers by calling those numbers.

One thing that is certain is it’s not possible to get through to an actual person by calling the numbers provided.

The state’s phone system is cleverly designed to provide a few basic options, none of which addressed my question. It’s not possible to bypass the system by dialing “0” to get to a live person.

The department of revenue puts great stock in their automated online status tool. They promote it wherever they can.

It works like this: taxpayers who have filed a return and want to check the status of their refund can enter their social security number, date of birth, type of return, year of return, and amount of the refund.

I checked this soon after I filed my return and many times after.

There are four status levels on this tool.

The first confirms that the department of revenue has received your return.

The second claims the state is checking your return for accuracy.

The third step indicates the state is processing your return.

The fourth and final step confirms the state has sent your refund.

From the first time I checked the site in July until today, the site has stated the state is checking my return for accuracy, and no additional action is required on my part.

After a few weeks of this, it seemed to be taking a long time to check the accuracy of a simple form, so I did some additional research.

I read that returns could be expected 60 days after a return is filed or the end of September, whichever is later.

So I waited some more.

After both of those criteria had passed, and their handy, convenient tool was still telling me the same thing, I tried to contact the state to inquire.

This proved completely unsuccessful. The best I was able to accomplish was to enter the same information via the phone as I had been entering on the website, and I got the same result.

The department of revenue refers to phone operators in its propaganda, but I don’t believe that they actually employ anyone in that capacity.

After exhausting all other avenues, I decided to try contacting the department of revenue by email to see if that would make any difference.

I sent a polite email clearly explaining who I am and what I have experienced, and what I was trying to find out. I included the confirmation number I received back in July.

I sent this email Oct. 2.

The afternoon of Oct. 4, I got a reply.

It appeared that whoever (or whatever) had prepared the message had simply copied and pasted the paragraph from their propaganda that described how to check the status of your refund – which I had specifically stated I had already done.

At the bottom of the email was a helpful note stating that if I have additional questions, I need to provide the reason for my initial email (which I already did in that document), as well as my full name, address, date of birth, the last four digits of my social security number, and phone number “so they can verify my identity.”

I’m starting to wonder if I should tell the state to just keep the money because it isn’t worth the hassle of trying to get an intelligent answer out of an agency that is devoid of intelligence.

Maybe the people who work there really are that oblivious.

Maybe there aren’t any people working there, but a collection of robots that have been programmed to keep information out of the hands of taxpayers at any cost.

In any case, I’m convinced that the state, and specifically the department of revenue, has such contempt for taxpayers that they don’t care about answering questions or providing information. I doubt they have even heard of the concept of customer service.

How long would an organization last in the private sector if it treated its customers that way?

A policy of complete indifference to clients only works in monopolies, of which the government is a prime example.


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