To IRS, With Love

November 5th

Dear IRS,

 

Thank you for your letter dated November 1st. It’s nice to hear from you! 

 

I can’t thank you enough for alerting me to the error in my 2019 tax filing. How mortifying! I assure you it wasn’t personal. Our longstanding bond ranks you as one of my favorite government agencies and I value our relationship. I hope I didn’t cause any offense. As always, I admire your work! 

 

Not to make excuses, but I do want to explain myself. No longer wanting to trade a handsome sum for meddling questions from the H&R Block guy, I put on a blazer and a Her Money podcast and sat down to do my taxes myself. You of all people know how complicated it can be for freelancers, but I figured if I can help a fifth grader with New Math, I can interpret these forms. I can only blame all the motivational speakers who told me I could do anything, and express my gratitude that you checked my numbers. We’re nothing without our editors, right? 

 

An audit will be a chance to Marie Kondo – shake the dust bunnies off. I’m grateful for the opportunity!

 

I’d love to talk things through on the phone and sort this out. In the meantime, know that your letter is hanging proudly on the fridge.

 

Sincerely,

Martha 

 

 

 

November 10th

Dear IRS,

 

It’s occurred to me what an honor it is to have been chosen for an audit. I know not everyone gets this kind of attention, and it’s a special thing. I’ve taken to carrying your documents with me everywhere. Looking them over makes me feel that in this great big world, I matter. Thank you for that. 

 

Today while in line at the pharmacy, I re-read the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Your words are reassuring, especially “if we inquire about your return or select it for examination, it does not suggest that you are dishonest.” I was relieved to see that.

 

The section about talking to outside sources such as “newspaper, public records, and individuals” does give me pause. Do you mind not mentioning anything to my mom? I appreciate it.

Your Friend,

Martha

 

 

 

November 20th

Dear IRS, 

 

I’ve been trying to reach you by phone. It’s tricky to get through! I explained to the automated voice that I had received a personal letter and you were expecting my call, but it seems I couldn’t be connected to you directly. I don’t want you to think I’m ignoring you. Give me a shout -- you have my number. 

 

In other news, my ficus plant is doing so well, he graduated to a new pot! I enclosed a photo. Do you have a green thumb? 

 

Talk soon,

Martha

 

 

 

December 3rd

Dear IRS,

 

Did you catch me visiting your website last night? I thought that might be a better way to reach you. When I logged in, it said I didn’t owe anything, even though your letter mentioned quite a high number. I’m sure it’s a matter of wires getting crossed! I can imagine the intra-office pranking that might go on, and your cubemate trying to keep you from this month’s goals by fudging the data! Either way, I’m eager to get things cleared up. Our relationship is important to me, and I think about you often. 

 

While I have you, can I offer a suggestion? Your webpage is nice, but I have a few ideas for jazzing it up to increase engagement. A mascot might be fun? Maybe a cartoon pencil, and he wears different hats for different parts of the tax process? Or a pair of glasses with sturdy frames. Let’s brainstorm. 

 

Thinking of you, 

Martha 

 

 

December 16th

Dear IRS,

 

Did you receive my needlepoint? The carpal tunnel flare-up was worth it to imagine the fiber version of my 1040 form brightening up your office. I hope it prompts a smile from you on these dreary winter days. Is it warm enough in your office? Let me know if you need a knitted blanket, and also, when you would like to chat about the money. 

 

Yours,

Martha 

 

 

 

December 31st

Dear IRS,

 

I was overjoyed to get your mail dated December 27th, but to be honest I was disappointed to find twenty pages of documents instead of the expected holiday photo card. Did you get my Christmas newsletter? 

 

I’m sorry you had to work over the holidays! 

 

Mail correspondence can feel so distant. I’d love to meet up in person to dive in and correct this issue together! I adore Washington D.C. – short buildings; expensive sandwiches. We could make a day of it! I have been wanting to see Julia Child’s kitchen at the American History Museum.

 

We can sort everything out while we stroll, and I really want to get to know you better, too. How did your career path unfold? Did you always want to be the IRS? Which Hogwarts house are you? 

 

I think we have something special, and I want to KIG -- keep it going. 

 

Xo,

Martha 

 

 

 

January 14th

Dear IRS,

 

I know it’s late. I can’t sleep. I’ve listened to the Relaxing Ocean Waves meditation and Oliver Twist on audiobook, and nothing’s working. I keep going over our last communication in my head.

 

Your actions and words – they don’t always line up. Sometimes it seems like you don’t want this, yet you keep coming back. Are you trying to make me prove myself? I get it – we’ve all been let down before. Don’t you think I understand that? I’m here for this, IRS. I’m all in. The question is, are you? 

 

I love you,

Martha 

 

 

 

January 15th

Dear IRS,

 

I woke up today with the breakthrough that this isn’t a matter of He’s Just Not That Into You – we’re simply speaking different love languages. I’m looking for Quality Time, while you want Acts of Service. 

 

I’ve scheduled a joint therapy appointment for this Saturday at 1 pm. There will be space for you on the mid-century couch. Let’s fix this. 

 

Love never fails, 

Martha 

 

 

 

January 20th

Dear IRS,

 

Don’t worry, I covered the session charge myself when you didn’t show up. As Carrie Bradshaw says, let’s breathe and reboot. 

 

Do you want to do a craft day? We could scrapbook, or make candles. It might be good to just spend time together, and put business on the back burner for now.

 

I noticed that you are posting daily on Twitter, even though you haven’t got back to my messages. I don’t mean to be snarky…but who is doing your graphics? 

 

Martha 

 

 

 

February 1st

Dear IRS,

 

It’s a special day today -- our anniversary! We’ve been corresponding for three whole months. I circled the date on my calendar and I’ll be cooking myself a cauliflower steak with some wilted greens and toasting with a glass of apple juice cut with seltzer. I can’t believe it’s been this long. It seems like yesterday I got that first message from you and felt like the luckiest girl in the world. 

 

Did you get my bouquet of fruit skewers? Don’t get upset, I didn’t splurge – I carved the melon daisies myself. I know you would want me to be economical. 

 

I love you and I like you,

Martha

 

 

 

February 17th

Dear IRS,

 

You’ve been pretty quiet – are you doing all right? These winter blues can get to all of us. 

 

You have my number – just text.

 

xoxo,

Martha 

 

 

 

February 24th

Dear IRS,

 

I was overjoyed to get your recent letter dated February 22nd! Thank goodness you are well. I was beginning to get worried. 

 

I notice there are only four pages, and there’s reference to a plan that I wasn’t consulted on. I’m eager to problem-solve as well, but I’d prefer some input to the conversation? Do you want to get together this week to hammer it out? I could make a lasagna. 

 

Remember, it’s me and you against the problem – not me against you. Relationships are about compromise, right? 

 

I hope you like the personalized crossword with all kinds of tax law trivia, enclosed.  Maybe you can work on it on your lunch break. 

 

Kisses,
Martha 

 

 

 

February 25th

Dear IRS,

 

I don’t mean to be a downer, but I’m not in the best frame of mind today. Everyone around me is getting excited for tax season, and we still haven’t resolved our spat. 

 

I usually love this time of year. I got down the bin of decorations from the attic, but the 1099 garlands are still sitting in a pile on the floor, next to the cardboard calculators I always scotch-tape to the bay window. I just don’t have the heart. 

 

I didn’t even send out cards this year. How can I? I feel like an imposter, going around and wishing people a happy holiday season, when underneath it all, we’re at odds. I want to celebrate, too. I want to wear a sticker that says I Did My Taxes. But I can’t.

 

To top it off, Netflix is showing one Tax Season special after another, and I can’t stop myself. It’s a way to press the bruise. 

 

Thinking of you,

Martha 

 

 

 

February 26th

Dear IRS,

 

Do you love me? Check yes or no. 

 

From, 

Me

 

 

 

February 27th

Dear IRS,

 

For finding me among a whole universe of potential people…thank you.

For recognizing my uniqueness and making me feel like the only girl in the world…thank you.

For never forgetting me…thank you.

For always being there…thank you.

 

Love always,

Martha 

 

 

 

February 28th

Dear IRS,

 

You know what? I’m getting tired of this. I give you everything, show you vulnerability, and you don’t even have the decency to respond? And when you do, it’s a template letter? Don’t think I didn’t notice that your paperwork has been arriving from all different locations. Holtsville, NY; Cincinnati; Austin?! Why are you traveling so much? Are you the Tinder Swindler? How many people are you even corresponding with? Is it too much to expect a little personal attention? You take, and take, and take, and never give.

 

I’m done. 

 

Martha 

 

 

 

March 2nd

Dear IRS,

I’m really embarrassed about my last message. I had a long day and too much Chex Mix. Please, pretend it never happened. When you want to talk, I’m here.  

 

I love you, 

Martha 

 

 

 

March 5th 

Dear IRS,

 

It’s quiet here at the seaside in the wintertime. Nice to get away from the city noise. The beach is empty, and I’ve been taking long walks, collecting sea pebbles and broken shells from the cold sand. I’ve been thinking about you a lot. Do you ever get the chance to take a break and look out over the water? To watch the waves tumbling toward you, and contemplate the never-ending passage of time? I’m reminded of T.S. Eliot: I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each…I do not think they will sing to me. 

 

They say life is a spiraling curriculum, like the channeled whelk shell I tucked into my canvas bag this morning. We travel along its rounded edges, destined to repeat the same mistakes until we learn from them. I’m ready to fix my past mistakes, IRS. I hope you’ll let me. 

 

Love,

Your Martha

 

 

 

March 7th 

Dear IRS,

 

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to find my voice. This is the last time you will be hearing from me. Love is a two-way street, and I’m strong enough now to read the road signs. 

 

I’ve tried, IRS. I wanted nothing more than to sit together in a buttery-leather booth, hold hands over a plate of silver dollar pancakes, and sign on the dotted line. But if you don’t want what I have to offer, I’m not waiting around. I’ve got my water shoes on, and I can paddle my own canoe. Don’t try to find me. 

 

Liberte,

Martha J. Cooney