The IRS lurks out there for all of us. Like a vampire of legend it hovers, rapacious teeth gleaming, waiting to pounce, sucking the life's blood from our veins. Most people experience a shiver of fear when a letter from the IRS arrives. Given the propensities of that institution, passed into law though never actually ratified in 1913, the fear is understandable.
But some people are more frightened than others.
One such individual was my former husband, Craig Franklin. Craig not only feared the IRS as other people do he was phobic on the subject. That phobia took a form that made it impossible for him to file his yearly return. This is not to say someone else then had to do it for him. He made sure it was not done no matter what.
I found out about this state of affairs very early in 1997 while going through the 29 boxes sequestered in his office at work. I had found out there was a problem with the IRS and State Franchise Tax Board when Craig came home and announced that he had paid thousands of dollars to a legal firm, Brown & Associates, to save him. Craig collapsed onto the bed. It creaked.
That explained a lot. For instance the irregularity of his paychecks. I realized he, we, were being garnisheed. We were approaching foreclosure, bankruptcy, and emotional melt down. Craig had paid the folks at Brown & Associates and then refused to give them information so they could do their job, saving him from his own non-filing.
When a husband is sobbing, whimpering and fouling the coverlet no decent wife does anything but figure out how to fix the problem. I did that. Eventually, the IRS would refund the nearly $200,000 they had grabbed over the years, making up returns when no money had ever been owed, even by their standards. But when Craig was laying there burying his leaking face in the pillow I did not yet know why the problem existed. I thought we had filed. Craig had made sure that all correspondence went to his work; he had kept every piece of mail from both the IRS, the State Franchise Tax Board, and various other institutions in the previously mentioned boxes along with dirty underwear, personal correspondence, old food, and a truly astonishing selection of other items.
Do we ever really know anyone?
But still, he was my husband and, tas he mother of five, I did not intend to let any bully on the face of the Earth reduce him into a cowering and quivering bowl of jelly. In box No. 9 I found the unfiled tax returns I had insisted be filled back in 1987 when he and I were first married. We were a merged family and, both Libertarians, were well aware of the threat represented by the IRS.
All rational people are afraid of the IRS. I was entirely rational on the subject. Craig was not.
Over the next three months I had many conversations with IRS agents. Slowly, a pattern emerged. I discovered from that series of cheerful thugs that people, like Craig, who cannot file the return are not at all rare.
Finally, having listened to another story of a suicide and the dissolution of another life I asked, “So, you are saying this is like a...the person has an emotional disability?” “Exactly!” Said the agent, cheerfully as we went on to other subjects, for instance why we were now being dunned for more money we did not owe.
As soon as I had compiled the information in those 29 boxes and managed to get the material to my tax accountant the completed returns began to be filed. I continued to beg for time. I interject that the IRS is not a fount of compassion. I began also to reflect on Craig's life before we married. The tax non-filing was of long duration. He had never filed previously, not once since graduating from Stanford with a shiny new degree in Mathematics.
He had not filed while at NASA, Data General, SAS Institute or any of the other impressive places that employed him. But he had gotten stock options, options he had never stayed long enough to exercise. Pause to consider how much money he left behind when he moved on after just two years or so after receiving major chunks of options. Huge. That explained many things, for instance his inability to produce the tax loss documents for Liberty Services, the 'company' founded to fail but provide computer services for the Libertarian Party in 1979 or so. Ten years later, when I was on the National Committee, angry investors/donors were still putting the subject on the agenda. Craig had no answer, he just refused to discuss the subject.
Finally I realized that Craig had a disability. He was emotionally incapable of filing. By ignoring this disability the IRS was oppressing him, forcing him to do something of which he was provably incapable. Just like insisting a paraplegic run the Triathlon.
I made an appointment for Craig with a well-reputed therapist. The letter below was the result.
Re: Craig Franklin
To Whom it May Concern
I have been asked to write a letter to explain the behavior of Craig Franklin regarding his failure to file tax returns. I have seen Mr. Franklin several times and believe I have a thorough understanding of why he is not filing even though it is costing him money not to do so.
Mr. Franklin is extremely intelligent. But he cannot deal with authority figures. He uses several rationalizations to justify this behavior including an arrogant assertion that, “he should not be bothered with every day tasks.” But the source of these attitudes is imbedded in his early childhood. He cannot deal with authority. Anything is preferable. The more authority and pressure he feels the more he is compelled to respond with inaction.
He is extremely angry, and expresses that rage through his refusal to bend to others wished, rules or demands. The IRS and Franchise Tax Boards being just two more authority figures he is compelled to resist.
What is most remarkable about Craig’s behavior is the compelling nature of his resistance. He is literally incapable of paying his taxes. He realizes that he has paid far more money to the government than he would have is he had filed. However, he is still adamant over his refusal to deal with the reality of taxes (and other compelling realities as well).
He has now turned over the responsibility for the taxes to his wife, and arrangements have been made for her to receive and handle ALL correspondence.
If I may be of further assistance in understanding Mr. Franklin, please contact me.”
Then I wrote to the Collections Agent. Here is the letter.
I was directed to contact you regarding my husband, Craig Franklin, and his non-filing. Craig has never filed a tax return. He is unable to do so even though, with levies and penalties, he pays much more than he owes, because of an emotional disability. I enclose a copy of a letter I wrote a few weeks ago that gives a run-down of the situation as I understood it then.
Since that time I have learned that the phobia is actually specific to authority figures. Craig cannot deal with authority figures. Finding this out explained much of his employment history. He left company after company because of conflicts with his employers. This has also cost him because he was never able to cash out when the company went public - and yet was so valuable an employee that he often received large shares of stock options. Craig has made many people wealthy.
I enclose a letter from Craig’s therapist. Craig will never be able to file taxes or do many other things that are normal and expected. But because of his enormous intelligence he has been able to conceal his problem.
I have worried from time to time that he was an alcoholic or on drugs - but I had never heard of anything like this and neither had his therapist. We are considering a conservatorship for him. But I now handle all matters relating to his taxes. It is the only way we can function.
You might well ask why I didn’t notice what was happening to our finances. Craig has proven to be a skilled liar and manipulator willing to do and say anything to conceal his problem. Also, we together have six children and I have always had my hands full with the them and with a series of disasters. These included the death of my mother to cancer in 1987, my own near death in 1989 and the death of our last child., Abigail. In 1992 my father died, in 1993 Craig’s mother died, in 1994 we suffered severe losses on our home in North Hills. The estimate for repairs was $250,000. It took two years to have it repaired during which time we were paying the costs of both houses. Then just months after the earthquake my older sister had a heart-attack in Japan. I flew over to find that she was brain dead. And that was only the beginning of that story.
I tell you this not to elicit sympathy but to explain how I could have overlooked what was going on.
We have four children in college and another in junior high school. We are still supporting our oldest daughter, Morgan, who has never entirely recovered from an automobile accident in 1991 and who was unable to work at all for four years. She was rear-ended by a school bus at a school crossing. Craig’s brother handled her claim and consequently she received nothing. (He filed too late.) She is now somewhat better and trying to find employment. My middle son also had a drug problem in 1993 - that took an enormous amount of my time for I don’t know how long.
So, this is what was happening while Craig’s weight swelled and his health plummeted. Since he couldn’t deal with the problems his disability raised he escaped into work and eating. When he was diagnosed he looked terrible. We re really fortunate that he did not die of the stress.
Since I have taken over he had improved enormously. But this has not been good for me. Both of my sisters died of heart attacks, Anne, as I mentioned in 1994 and Carol in 1974. Their ages were 59 and 36. Two years ago my younger brother had open heart surgery. I am now under a doctor’s care for my heart.
What I want is to resolve this so that we can have a normal life, or as normal as possible given Craig’s condition I really wish that the IRS or the Franchise had charged Craig with non-filing. I thought that was what happened eventually. If the IRS had charged him he would have received the care he needed years ago - and spared all of us incredible suffering.
Craig’s non-filing arose not from any unwillingness to file but from an inability to file. If you read Dr. XXXXXXX’s letter this is clear. Since that is the case we should not have to pay any penalties - or interest.. Most especially since we never owed anything.
This is what I want. I want out from under the mountain of debts that Craig’s condition has caused. A refund of the excess payments would help.
People like Craig who are disabled from childhood are unable to do certain things. Some people have no legs and therefore cannot dance. Craig cannot deal with authority in any form and so cannot file his taxes.
This had been a very difficult letter to write. Thank you for your prompt attention in this matter.”
We had been told by various professionals that we would be paying additional penalties for years, the time ranged from three to five. No one, especially Craig, could believe it when the checks, one for each year, began appear in the mail box. Craig had said to me, “If you can make that work then you should get the money for yourself.” But to our son he said, “Your mother is nuts!!!! No one can beat the IRS.”
But I was pretty darn sure that this was a case the IRS would want buried, and I was right. But what I did not realize that in the convoluted mind of Craig Franklin, I, having beaten the IRS had shamed him and would now play a very unwilling part in the next portion of the disaster movie that is his life.
We call that segment, Divorce, Misho Style for reasons that will become obvious. The IRS is scary but not nearly as much so as some people I know.