Thursday, June 7, 2007

Mistaken Identity

This morning I got an email from the banker who is helping me to re-finance my house. I sometimes wonder who is helping who in this process but that's another story. She wrote with some alarm to tell me that there has appeared on my title a $7000 + federal lien on my property in favor of the IRS. What the ?? I have no beef with the tax folk; I'm clean, I tell ya! This lien was filed in February '06 and I had not gotten any notices, bills, peeps... In fact I'd even gotten a substantial tax refund this year. So this did not compute. But of course the onus is on me to show proof that the mortgage company will not have to write a payoff check to the tune of 7 grand to the IRS at my closing. Guilty until proven innocent.

So I spent the first half of the day on hold with various IRS departments. All the agents I spoke to were extremely polite, patient and helpful. Have no qualms about calling them; they're sweet. I learned that I most definitely do not owe the IRS 7K. I subsequently needed to contact the Cook County recorder of deeds office to figure this out. I was on hold for another 20 minutes with the county and finally got someone to look up the document that held the key to the mystery. It turned out that the culprit is someone who shares my name, but not my SSN or my address. My doppelganger appears to be in worse financial shape than me and, while I wish him no harm, I'm glad I ain't him at this point.

At first I really thought I was in a lot of trouble. The paranoia started kicking in: How could all of those notices have eluded my attention? Maybe I'm just in extreme denial and the IRS has caught up with some imaginary crimes I've committed and I will just have to pony up at closing. What on earth was I thinking? All my careful planning regarding paying off my debts and having some cash left over were crumbling right in front of my eyes.

So how do we see ourselves? And does it have anything whatsoever to do with how others view us? It took me quite a while to do the reality check necessary to regain my sense of equilibrium. Getting the correct data from the IRS helped but I should have already known in my bones that this lien thing had to be a mistake. So in a sense I needed some stranger (actually several strangers) to tell me WHO I am and who I'm NOT. That leaves me with the weirdest feeling of self-alienation.

Maybe that's why we need our friends and loved ones: to reflect back to us who we really are, especially when we start to go off the deep end!