Joan Barthel, a freelance writer living in Manhattan, was subjected to an IRS audit because her husband claimed a deduction due to their summer home in CT burned down.
Two IRS agents came to the audit and claimed that the Barthels’ calculations were incorrect and that they owed the IRS $14,000. Part of the deduction the agents questioned was the loss of a very large collection of books. According to Barthel, “I’m a writer, and the house was filled with books. They wanted the name and author of every book I lost in the fire. I was in tears. They came in assuming I was a criminal and had deliberately tried to cheat the United States government. It was ‘guilty until proven innocent.’ As a layperson, you’re up against this monolithic organization represented by two guys who are yelling at you. You’re at a disadvantage to say the least.”
The Barthels hired a lawyer who representing them in tax court where they settled with the IRS for $4,000. But the case dragged on for so long they had accrued $2,000 in interest.