I spent a lot of the week preparing for, and then participating in, an audit of one of my clients by the Washington State Department of Revenue. We don’t have either personal or corporate income taxes in Washington, so this audit covered 4 years of sales tax and something called the Business and Occupation Tax.
The preparation was complicated by the fact that, over the audit period, four different people have prepared the quarterly returns using source data from two different accounting packages, so almost no two quarterly tax returns were prepared in quite the same way. This unnerved the auditor a bit, and I had to basically give her a guided tour of every return. There was nothing really amiss with any of them, but since I hadn’t prepared the ones from the earlier years, a lot of questions arose.
The auditor would ask me how a certain number was derived, and I’d be all “Hmm…how’d they come up with that?” As we progressed from year to year, “they” increasingly meant “me”. But I still kept saying “they”.
There was an ironic twist to this experience. Back in the 70s (1975 - 1979), I worked in the same capacity as a state revenue auditor. Late in 1979, though, Reagan was elected on the federal level and a Reagan-esque Democrat named Dixie Lee Ray was elected governor in Washington, and I figured it was going to be a bad time to be a government employee. So I quit and went to work for a CPA firm.
As it turned out, though, the state needed money pretty badly, and the audit function of the Department of Revenue was expanded quite a bit, including the creation of another supervisory level. I’d have had an almost instant promotion, with a lot of headroom for advancement.
It’s all good, though, I’ve had a really kaleidoscopic career with exposure to stuff that I never would have seen if I’d stayed at the DOR. However. As I was chatting with the auditor and recounting how I’d worked for the Department back in the day, she mentioned a woman that I’d started with, who was her supervisor. But…she had just retired.
Retired. The word was like a spear between my ribs. Her supervisor (and I if I had stayed) would have been grandfathered under PERS1, the gold-standard retirement plan that soon became unavailable to new hires as the state looked for ways to cut personnel expenses. It shimmers like a desert mirage as I fretfully refresh my Quicken every day or so, and recalibrate how much longer I’ll be working.