A taxing experience with the bureaucracy


To the Editor:

The intolerable practices of the Veterans Administration hospitals and their gross mistreatment of patients understandably triggered a loud demand for the director’s resignation. No matter how big the bureaucracy, systemic ineptness and arrogance should never be tolerated. The head of the organization sets the tone and the standards, and must be accountable for its performance.

Ordinary citizens like me encounter this kind of inept arrogance regularly, albeit on a smaller scale, and it usually goes unnoticed.

The Warwick Tax Collector’s office sent out some 23,000 delinquency notices this spring, then later acknowledged that many of them may be inaccurate.

I received such a notice on May 24 saying I owed $317. It was dated May 8. (U.S. Postal Service must be to blame.) Checked my records and could find no missed payments.

So I called. The line was constantly busy but I persevered, calling every few minutes for nearly an hour. Finally, I got through and was told the payment for October 2013 was late.

It wasn’t. So I went to the tax office on Friday, May 27 and stood in line for a half-hour. The clerk there told me my January 2014 payment did not arrive until Feb. 10. (Obviously, I misheard the first clerk.)

So I returned on Monday morning. The door was still locked at 8:33, and 10 people were waiting patiently. When my turn came, I handed her the delinquency notice and waited silently while she checked the computer. She also told me my Jan. 15 payment did not arrive until Feb. 10.

On this visit, though, I had the canceled check.

“No,” I said, “you just didn’t cash it until Feb. 10,” and handed her the cancelled check.

She made a copy of it, returned the original to me, and told me to “have a good day.” No apologies. No explanations. The notice was 19 days arriving and warned me I’d owe more interest if I didn’t pay by May 31. I got conflicting information from two different clerks. The office was late opening. And the desk was not fully manned on either of my visits, despite the long line. And the tax bills for the year were a couple weeks late arriving, as I recall. Talk about being delinquent.

I wonder how many people were intimidated and just gave up and paid.

The mayor defended the tax collector after the flap over the delinquency notices. Maybe he should check to see if that was symptomatic of a shoddily run operation.

Ron Wolk



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