In Jim Cook's Archive


Forty years ago, I threw my checkbook away and I’ve never had one since. One summer evening in 1976 at about 7:30 p.m. two young men in suits knocked on my door. They said they were from the Internal Revenue Service and they would like to talk to me. I invited them in and they began to question me about my educational background and work experience. They were there because my tax return for the prior year hadn’t been filed on time. They advised me that was a felony then (it no longer is). I told them I had asked my accountant to file for an extension. They advised me that I had gone beyond the terms of the extension.  I explained that I had requested a second extension. They said there was no record of that and they would be conducting a criminal investigation.

I had to produce my checks for several years and endure a couple more question and answer sessions. After a few months, I began to get phone calls from friends and businesses that I had written checks to. My clothing store called and said an IRS agent had been in to verify my clothing purchases. I had lost a $10 bet with a friend in Florida on the Viking-Dolphin game and the IRS called him in for an interview. I complained to the IRS agent that they were running around terrifying my friends and damaging my reputation.

I was dumb about the seriousness of my situation and I had been friendly and talkative with the agents. Finally, after months had gone by, someone told me I better get a lawyer. I found a young lawyer who was a former IRS agent and he told me to keep my mouth shut, because I was in big trouble. A year went by and they were still investigating.

Finally they pulled my accountant in and put him under oath. He testified that he had filed the first extension I had asked for. Then he admitted that I had requested he file a second extension, but he had failed to do so. He said he forgot. That was it, their case blew up and I was out of trouble. It was a learning experience and I quit using a checkbook after that. My wife pays the bills with her checks and I’m happy with that.

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