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Who’ll Fix Worn Out? C. H. Smith

How are broken systems fixed? It seems nobody. Here are three examples from my own life of random, rare breakdowns that may be systemic. Let’s assume I’m not one in a million, but another systemic victim.

6. U.S. mail forwarding six months late. The US Postal Service, like other large-scale systems serving the public, automates online change of address forms. In the past, mail forwarding has been a week or two late but reliable.

Not in 2021. Family obligations forced us to deal with a car left in California during the Covid lockdown. It’s old and not worth much, so we filed a Planned Non-Operation registration with the DMV.

If I’d expected USPS mail forwarding to fail, I would have signed up for CA-DMV email notices online. We received our 2021 auto registration notices in late November, well after the renewal deadline in early June. The mail was late by six months. It’s over.

That’s when California’s DMV system broke down ingloriously.

Your non-running car in storage must be insured and pass a smog test. I’ve noticed many local government agencies are no longer satisfied to charge a late fee for late payments.

Their responses are designed to punish the tardy public far beyond the “sin” of missing a deadline for payment/filing a form.

California’s DMV removes the option to register a car as non-operational after 90 days. This doesn’t mean a non-running car can be driven to a smog station.

It means you’ve entered DMV No-Exit Purgatory: your car can’t be smog-certified, so it can’t be registered, and it disappears from the DMV’s online system.

Not only is the car broken, but we also weren’t there to fix it. The state has 39 million residents and millions of registered vehicles. 675,000 people left California in 2021, and some left cars in storage due to Covid travel restrictions and other issues.

I find it hard to believe I’m the only one who missed the deadline to register a non-operational vehicle as non-operational, but the DMV demands a $214 late fee (heh) and that you register the vehicle as operational.

IRS

Trying to get the DMV to accept a change of address form is a battle. No paper or online form is reliable.

Sending letters to the DMV for help fixing this problem is like throwing them away. Some DMV workers decided to clear my case by declaring the car “registered in another state.”

This led the DMV to demand proof from the Hawaii DMV that the non-working car in California storage hadn’t been transported to Hawaii. It was my job to fix the DMV’s absurd errors.

When the public has to jump through hoops to fix problems created by the public agency, this is a breakdown in “public service.”

I found an online DMV portal that cut a 7-month back-and-forth to a week of emails and document submissions. (Could the DMV have directed me here in the past 7 months? One would think so, but apparently not.)

After 7+ months of needless churn, the DMV issued us a non-operational registration for the non-running car.

What difference does it make if a non-working car in storage is registered 91 or 209 days late?

As long as the outrageous late fee is paid, what public interest is served by creating a no-exit Purgatory where the owner can neither register the non-working car as non-working nor get smog certification?

None. The DMV wasted its own staff on a 7+-month travesty of “public service.”

3. We cashed the tax payment attached to your 2021 return but you didn’t file. I’ve tried everything to reach the IRS and solve problems I didn’t cause, but nothing works.

I waited patiently on the phone, and the staff was courteous and helpful, but they couldn’t help me. I went to the local office and was told to call regional.

The first problem was paying taxes online. My experience with the IRS was the opposite of what one might expect.

For reasons I can’t fathom, the IRS suggested I open an EFTPS account. The IRS online system only recognises my 2016 tax year, which the IRS staff couldn’t see on their screens.

When I entered 2017-2018-2019-2020 data, I got “the data you provided does not match our records” There was no explanation or help.

If the IRS phone staff had told me to “just enter your 2016 tax return,” I could have avoided a lot of useless churns.

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The second fiasco was submitting my 2020 tax return in March 2021 and receiving multiple letters from the IRS saying they hadn’t received my return.

In 2021, I asked the IRS if I needed to resubmit my 2020 tax return. I received three form letters over the next 4 months saying, “We’re looking into it and need time.”

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