THE PTA’S IRS AUDIT
“Ignorance is Strength.” George Orwell, 1984
When our kids were young decades ago, like most parents we were active in the elementary school’s PTA. Probably for lack of any alternatives, the current president asked the two of us (the presidency was a co-mom and dad deal) to be the incoming presidents. After discussing the idea, Pat agreed to handle the paperwork if I agreed to be the one standing up in front of everyone moderating the meetings. We were elected by acclimation in May.
What we did not know at the time was that the presidents were also keepers of all the bank books and other records, and so we were in effect the treasurers as well. Shortly after our ascension the previous incumbents asked if they could bring over the PTA’s records. “Of course,” we said. With some humor we received the records—two grocery bags full of unorganized papers, bank accounts, etc. You have to understand, though, that very little was ever in the PTA’s bank account except during the fall, when the school had a festival that generated money with which to buy stuff for the school. By June all the money had been spent for play equipment or trees and bushes that the school had no funds for.
Our tenure began quickly in June with a call from the IRS—- a nice man who said he had to audit the PTA’s books. Not knowing what was in store, wife Pat set up an appointment to meet the officer at the school in the cafeteria room. I, of course, begged off claiming I had to work downtown.
Pat dutifully lugged the two grocery bags up to the school, and the rather serious man started off by asking what the fiscal year of the PTA was. Pat answered honestly: “From September 1 through June 1.” The officer of course was taken aback and kindly said that a fiscal year had to be a year, not 9 months. “But nothing happens the other 3 months,” Pat replied. Taking the offensive, she then asked why our little PTA was being audited. “Well, because we have to have a documented history that we are not targeting any particular group or non-profit, so we periodically have to do something like this.” So they were not looking for anything in particular, it seemed.
Then in a stroke of genius Pat said that she had to go to the grocery store before the kids got home from the local swim club. The officer actually warmed up and said that was quite OK but asked where the records were. Pat shoved the two bags forward. “Is that it?” he said. “Well, I guess so because we were just elected three weeks ago and I don’t even know what is in there and can’t really answer any questions you might have.” Discouraged, he asked Pat to come back in two hours.
This she did, but when she returned the two bags were there but the officer was nowhere in sight, with no written messages or anything. Neither we nor the PTA every heard from the IRS again.
MORAL OF THE STORY:
It’s hard to state a moral to this story, but probably it is that ignorance (factual at least) really is not all that bad a way to go with the IRS.