Lawyer baffled by tiny IRS bill

January 5, 2009 4:36:41 AM PST
James Howarth is a little confused by two letters he has received from the Internal Revenue Service. [SIGN UP: Get bizarre news sent to you]

The Detroit defense lawyer received one letter in November that said he owed the IRS money -- five cents.

He was warned that he should pay "to avoid additional penalty and/or interest," the Detroit Free Press reported Saturday.

Howarth says he then received a second letter telling him the government owes him money -- four cents.

He was told he would have to request the refund since it's less than $1.

"When I owe them a nickel, I must pay them. It's not optional," he said. "But when they owe me, I have to ask for it."

Howarth says he's not sure if there is a connection between the two notices, or if the refund represents a recalculation of the original bill.

The perplexed lawyer says he called an IRS 800 telephone number but gave up after spending a long time on hold.

IRS spokesman Luis D. Garcia says the agency doesn't comment on individual accounts.

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