Lost IRS payments affect Ohioians after delivery truck accident

Bethany Jones

Tax payments sent out by Ohio residents may not have been received by the Internal Revenue Service.

About 30,000 tax payments, including some from Ohio, were lost in the San Francisco Bay on Sept. 11 after a mail truck carrying the payments was in a traffic accident. The truck contained about 45,000 tax payments from 13 states.

IRS spokesperson Chris Kerns said all people can do at this point is wait until today to see if a check has cleared.

Dave Van Allen, spokesman for the Northern Ohio district of the postal service, said it is rare for large amounts of mail to be lost.

There is no way of knowing how much mail is lost per year due to employees of the postal service, Van Allen said. Lost mail is largely attributed to improperly addressed mail.

Cleveland has a Loose-in-the-Mail unit, Van Allen said. There, employees look for some forward direction to send lost mail or items dropped in mailboxes. Mail with no return information is shipped to one of two recovery centers in the United States, one in Atlanta and one in St. Paul, Minn.

High speed automated processing equipment is used to examine documents and packages. Mail that can be identified will be sent back to the proper owner, letters with nowhere to go are disposed of, he said.

The Cleveland postal service processes up to a million pieces of mail a night. About 21,000 pieces of mail have gone to the Loose-in-the-Mail center this year, Van Allen said.

“Within the last year, several thousand dollars was sent out or picked up,” said Mildred Nelson, claims clerk in the Loose-in-the-Mail unit of the main post office in Cleveland.

Nelson said her job is to look for a way to get lost mail back to the sender or to its intended destination.

“Say it was around tax season,” she said, “if it came to our unit and it was an IRS 1040, we would assume it was supposed to go to the IRS.”

Things other than mail or packages often end up at the center, such as bank deposit slips and driver licenses, Nelson said.

“It’s usually people inadvertently depositing the wrong thing,” she said.

Someone will leave an ID at a store and a clerk will toss it in a mailbox thinking that we will send it to the owner, Nelson said.

“We get so many of them, for security purposes we send them all to the Driver’s License Bureau in Columbus,” she said.

People can contact the Loose-in-the Mail unit if they think they have deposited something other than mail.

Van Allen said when people do not receive checks they need to contact the person who sent it to them and ask that one be reissued.

In response to the lost tax payments in San Francisco, the IRS is asking those people affected by this accident to call 1-800-829-1040.

Kerns said there are trained employees ready to deal with the issue over the phone.

Instructions will be given on where to send a replacement check, and those affected will have 30 days to resubmit one. The IRS will waive all penalties for those affected.

An IRS newsletter said the lost mail represents only 2 percent of the total payments processed in September.

“Anytime you’re physically moving paper from one place to another accidents do occur,” said Kerns. “Thirty thousand is just a tiny, tiny fraction.”

Kerns said one way to avoid accidents such as this is to file payments electronically. This past year more than half of the people who filed taxes – more than 65 million people – did it electronically.

“If you file a paper form now, you are in the minority,” he said.

Contact public affairs reporter Bethany Jones at [email protected].