The Kingdom of Heaven is like…
The letter came by certified mail. It required a signature as proof that I had received it. The subject line contained the word “Audit.”
There is just something about that word—audit—especially in the context of a certified letter addressed to you, that makes you feel like a criminal. It gave me that goosebumpy, shortness of breath feeling as though I had been caught doing something wrong. I know the feeling well— it’s called guilt. And in the context of the word “audit” I think the assumption is guilty until proven innocent.
After reading the rest of the letter, I took a couple of deep breaths to calm myself and then tried to figure out the nature of my crime. At least it was from the City of Salem and not the IRS. Last year we began offering a part of our home as a short-term rental through AirBnB. There were hoops to jump through with the City of Salem, one of which is collecting a Transient Occupancy Tax that we would report and pay monthly. While this task is a nuisance, I complied and was certain that I had not intentionally done anything wrong.
I had to schedule a time with the City for the audit. The soonest date I could get was about three weeks out. Three weeks of having this cloud of suspicion hanging over my head. Three weeks of wondering what I had done wrong.
I am pretty meticulous when it comes to keeping records. The City’s paperwork for collecting this tax is cumbersome, with too many boxes to fill in. I automatically assumed I had messed up on one of the forms. Then all the doubt set in…what if I made a really big, stupid blunder? Maybe I am slipping up. Recently I made the mistake of depositing personal money into the business account. Then there was my credit card payment that I accidently paid to my cell phone provider. Did I somehow miss a payment? Did I send the payment to the wrong account? Did I put the wrong amount on the check? So many possibilities.
Over the next three weeks I fretted and fussed and double and triple checked the records. I couldn’t find any mistakes.
The Day of the Audit
I arrived, records in hand. I was shown into a room with two auditors, a man and a woman, at a table. Smiles and handshakes all around. Very gracious, offering me water, coffee, and even a lollipop…your tax dollars at work!
Then the man spoke. “This is just a routine audit. We are auditing all the AirBnB’s since this is brand new to the city. We mainly just want to make sure you don’t have any questions.”
“Well…uh…” this puzzled me. I thought I was there to answer their questions. “Well there is one of the forms that I have a question about…”
I asked my question and he made light of it, no worries. “Do you have a summary statement from AirBnB on your earnings? We will just do a quick check to see that our numbers match. We don’t need to see any of your ledgers or bank statements.”
I handed the summary over to the woman, who punched in the numbers.
“It’s all good,” she said, “everything matches.”
Then the guy said, “Well, just keep doing what you are doing! Thanks for coming in!”
What!? That’s it? I was actually disappointed. I spent all this time preparing, going over records, crunching numbers and had proof in hand. They didn’t even want to see my meticulous records. Add to that all the stress of the last few weeks in anticipation of this meeting. I couldn’t believe it! All they really wanted was a meet and greet? Why the certified letter? Why even use that scary word “audit?” Why tell me to bring in all my records, bank statements, etc.? Why all of that when there wasn’t anything to justify. Nothing at all at issue?
And then I was relieved. I am doing things right. Not guilty after all…and I didn’t even have to prove it.
As I walked back to my car, enjoying my cherry lolipop, one word kept popping into my head.
Amazing, isn’t it?
If you are traveling to Salem, we would be delighted to have you consider our Sunnyslope Retreat apartment! Check it out!Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments