Taxpayer Bill of Rights  

Statement by Monsignor Lawrence F. Ballweg

Good morning Chairman Roth and Members of the Senate Finance Committee. I am Monsignor Lawrence F. Ballweg. I have been a priest in the Catholic Church for over 57 years. I was retired in 1990 at the mandatory retirement age of 75. My mother, Elizabeth Ballweg, died in August 1988 and, in her will, established a Trust - the benefits of which go to charity. In the will I was named the Trustee and since her death I have faithfully and conscientiously performed my duties as Trustee. I have submitted an annual report of the Trust's activities to the IRS each year without any problems. During the year 1995, I made more numerous transactions than in previous years. In order to record all the income of the Trust, I listed the various items on separate sheets entitled Statement 1, Statement 2, etc., and then placed the totals in the appropriate spaces on the IRS Form 1041. I did this more for the convenience of the IRS than for my own convenience. Since I did not pay a professional to prepare the Trust's return, I spent hundreds of hours collecting the necessary papers and balancing the figures. I asked for an extension of time for 1995 so that I could be more confident that the report was as accurate as possible. Two months later the return that cost me so much time and effort was returned requesting that I put all my figures on the appropriate forms that were enclosed. My second report was done hurriedly and returned on July 7 to make sure that it reached the IRS office in the few days that were allowed. In my hurry to return this report on time, it may not have been done as perfectly as the first although all the figures were the same.

I spend six months in Florida and six months in New York. The day after I arrived in Florida (November 4, 1996) I received a letter from the IRS Atlanta office stating that I owed more than $18,000 in taxes and penalties. Since I had left a copy of my final report in New York, I asked that a copy be sent to me. I was informed that I first had to request an application for a copy of my report and then return the application with a check for $14.00. When the application arrived I filled it out and enclosed the check. About 6-8 weeks later, I received a form that indicated that I could not receive the copy since my name, Lawrence F. Ballweg, was different from the name of the Trust which was Lawrence F. Ballweg Trustee U/W Elizabeth D. Ballweg, and reflected on line 1 of Form 1041, Elizabeth D. Ballweg, my mother who had died 8 years before. I wrote a long letter, dated January 6, 1997, explaining that I had submitted annual reports since 1988 and that my name was the signature on each report. At the same time I submitted another request for a copy of my file. My request was ignored. Instead I received a "Final Notice", dated January 20, 1997, in which I was told that the IRS intended to take steps to take my bank account, auto or other property if they had not already done so. I have read several stories about how threats of that kind have caused extreme physical and mental suffering to taxpayers in the past. I now began to understand what those stories meant.

I must confess that I spent sleepless nights thinking of the possible consequences and not knowing where to turn since by this time I was certain that I would get no help from the IRS.

Mr. Chairman, it was at this time that I heard of your Investigation into the conduct of the IRS. I immediately wrote to you and received prompt action. CNN presented my case on television and the next day I received a call from an IRS Taxpayer Advocate, received a copy of my file and was advised how to make the necessary adjustments. On March 24, 1997, I received notice from the IRS' Atlanta Office that I did NOT owe any tax.

For eight months I lived in constant worry, if not fear, that the Trust that my dear mother had established to help the poor would be penalized because of what I can only call the unprofessional, callused, and indifferent behavior of IRS employees who are devious enough never to sign their names to any notices that they send out. The taxpayer is dealing with people who can do inestimable harm but cannot even be identified. I can only thank you, Senator Roth and the Senate Finance Committee, for trying to correct such abuses and I pray that, as a result, conscientious citizens will be spared the humiliation, embarrassment, fear and anxiety that I have experienced.

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