Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Missing Payments to the IRS

weren't the only problem in the fall of 2011. I've heard differing accounts of why there was no 2011 budget, which the parish bylaws say is the treasurer's responsiblity, but in any case, the parish annual meeting could not approve one in January of that year. On top of that, by the time I started opening bills, I discovered that pretty much every bill the parish had was many months overdue. The insurance on the parish van was days from being canceled for nonpayment. If the dialog on Operation Repo is any indication, the van itself was not long from that fate as well.

And whatever had happened to the outstanding bills, they weren't in the treasurer's office, and they weren't in the treasurer's in-box in the parish office. The first I found out about any overdue payment was the statement that arrived in the next new billing cycle after I became treasurer. As I say, it appears that the treasurer had done all her work from home, and all the bills must still have been there. At the very minimum, I have to conclude they passed through someone's hands between the incoming postal delivery and the treasurer's inbox.

And the puzzling part there was that the parish had the money. There were tens of thousands of dollars in the business checking account when I started, and I had no problem bringing all the accounts up to date, including the hundreds of dollars in late payment penalties that had accrued. The treasurer had given thirty days notice when she resigned, but it was clear that she hadn't paid any bills for some months prior to that. I believe she's said that the rector and senior warden had ordered her not to pay the bills, but I never heard that version from them, and for the time I worked as interim treasurer, they were clearly anxious that the parish's bills all be paid, and on time.

The one bill I never saw was the one from the IRS. Actually, I was looking for it, just as I was looking for the next gas bill, the next water bill, the next electric bill, because I wanted to be sure the important stuff got paid. I was looking for any record I could find on what was being withheld for all the employees, too, because that wasn't in the parish office.

This wasn't just attributable to the former treasurer: the parish's last audit had been from the official accounting firm of the ACA Diocese of the West. Once a new audit was done by another firm in early 2012, that firm discovered that the ACA firm had wrongly calculated withholding for the parish's employees in any case. (I had tried to contact the former ACA firm with my own questions, but they didn't reply: it appears that they'd ended their relationship with the ACA-DOW during the upheavals of the past several years.)

Here's what I can reliably say about the state of the treasurer's office and the fate of the IRS notices during the fall of 2011:

  • The treasurer had, from all indications I'd seen, not been performing satisfactorily in any part of that job through the summer of 2011. No satisfactory 2011 budget had been completed. No satisfactory treasurer's reports had been given to the vestry for at least several months.
  • All the parish's accounts were seriously in arrears, with several close to bad consequences, not just the IRS withholding.
  • The previous treasurer had not been performing the duties of the job in the parish treasurer's office, so that incoming bills were apparently dealt with in her residence, not at the parish. This would include bills and correspondence with the IRS.
  • Communication between the treasurer and the rector, wardens, and vestry was not satisfactory.
  • The rector, wardens, and vestry were not aware of the serious problems that had arisen with bill payments generally, not just the IRS.
  • However, the rector and senior warden had enough indication that the treasurer was not performing satisfactorily that they acted correctly in obtaining her resignation by summer 2011, however this may have been done.
But this still doesn't answer all the persistent questions I have about why the rector and senior warden never learned of the unpaid IRS withholding.