And then the IRS Came….

What a beautiful day yesterday was. Weather was on par; brisk in the morning, warming glow of the afternoon sun. I was knitting as we watched the latest installment of “The Walking Dead.” My arm was bothering me, so I put the needles down to check my emails. And that was when I saw it.

A levy had been placed on my account by the IRS. Every last dime was gone. All of the money I had been saving for my teeth, all of our household expenses, all the money set aside to buy yarn and pay for shipping, all of my savings, every last cent confiscated by the IRS. Everything was gone.

I was panicky, shaking, started crying, and muttering to myself “It’s happening again. I’m going to be homeless again.” over and over, and then swiftly moved into such a state I had never seen myself in before. Paralytic. Unable to move, save the frightful shaking.

Phillip grabbed me quickly, tenderly and kept reminding me, “We’ll figure it out. It’s ok. Calm down….”

“We have to start all over… All of that hard work, and I have to start over. I can’t keep fighting like this. I just can’t.”

And then he reminded me that the distinctness of my success has always been that I am a survivor. I have fought so hard, and will probably always have to fight. Because once you are homeless, trying to get out can be a perilous road of unseen circumstances that people don’t ever think of can cripple you. And this one? This one I never saw coming.

I called the IRS once I had calmed down and they explained to me that I never paid my taxes in 2010. Then it made sense to me. You see, that was the year I became homeless, so filing my taxes for the year prior never even occurred to me. I was busy trying to eat, find shelter, save myself. So, the IRS had come at me for the money I had made BEFORE I was homeless…..and 5 years of interests and penalties had amounted to a staggering debt. I asked why they just scooped in and took all of my money and they explained, “You should have answered the letter….” What letter was this? Where was it being sent? “To your last known address.” My warning was sent to an address I had not had in 5 years, my address in Savannah so long ago that even the city itself seems long a ghostly memory told in memoirs.

I was told that the levy against my account was a one time situation to (get this) “Get my attention.” Am I the only one who finds that cruel? I explained the situation, but they had the most impressive answer: “While you were looking for food, clothing, and shelter, you should have also informed the IRS of your situation.” Damn, they don’t teach you that when you become homeless. No, they teach you that clean socks, alcohol and cigarettes are currency for being behind a dumpster you need to pay rent on if someone else has claimed that territory. Like when you finally have enough money to rent a legitimate apartment and landlords won’t deal with you because you’ve no rental history over the last few years, or that you “suddenly” have a few dollars, or that applying for a job when you’re homeless can be an nightmare because you have to remind your employer that when it comes to food or a phone bill, you’ll take food so, “no I don’t have a phone, but can I call you?” doesn’t work out as sympathetically as you’d like.  Yeah, these are the things you learn being homeless. Not, “be sure to tell the IRS. The world may have forgotten you, but we haven’t. And we still want what is owed to us when you were socially acceptable and prosperous, despite how you are now.”

We came to an agreement. No more levies would be placed, my account would be active (minus the money they took), and they would not confiscate any more funds as long as I file the returns for that year by Dec 2nd of this year. Then they’ll put me on a payment plan. A payment plan with an account that has $0.

So, despite my need to pull back on the knitting, I have no choice. I mean, I have to pick up the needles again. I was so ready to get my teeth fixed, have a few dollars set aside so that we could move into the next phase of this blog, but that’s all been squashed. I’m selling my books, my t-shirts, my patterns….and yes, even teddy bears, but these teddy bears have to be made to order. I listed some bears that I can make with the yarn I have easy access to, but even then, these bears will not be done until January, which I know is a stupid thing to have to do since it’s nearly Christmas season. But, with what  I have on my plate and my arm the way it is, I just can’t have them done any sooner. So, I urge to you grab a book, a t-shirt, or a pattern, or a bear. Something. Anything.

This is the part of my blog where I usually end optimistically. Fine.

Being a fighter can be exhausting. Being a survivor can take its toll on you. But, despite my teeth and arm hurting, despite the madness tossed at me, I am a fighter and a survivor. I’ll take it.

And when the IRS comes calling all you can do is bight your teeth into a grit that causes a headache, clench your fist so tight that your fingernails dig into your palms, keep your head up and say, “Fine. I’ll just have to work harder…..but you’re not going to keep me from thriving. I’m too strong for that.”

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34 comments

  1. I am very sorry to hear of this not so good development. I have been wondering if you can apply for Medicare/Medicaid disability or even find the hospital in your area that treats people without an income. Here in Dallas, Texas we have huge hospital that has to treat anyone who needs help regardless of payment status. There is absolutely no reason to live in mind numbing pain when there are programs and places that can help. Please look into what is available in your area. Blessing to you!!

  2. I just read your blog I am so sorry that is so horrible. Typical of the IRS no understanding I think that’s terrible they just clean out your account. I have a bunch of yarn from the patterns I bought from you. I have a bunch of the bear that saved you yarn and oatmeal yarn and also the blue yarn too. If you would like it please email me writer_dreamer@yahoo.com and I will mail it to you today. I am so sorry this happened to you I will be praying for you and I ordered some bears from you. Take care
    Hugs hope

  3. OMG… I am so sorry. I just purchased all of your patterns on Ravelry. I urge you to look into free legal services that might be available to you. The IRS makes deals all the time…they are called offers in compromise. Please do this. You might not have to pay anymore than they have already taken from you. A lawyer should be able to get the penalties and interest either removed entirely or at least reduced. There should be something available through the county in which you live.

    1. My thoughts and prayers are with you. I am so sorry this has happened. Your choice to continue to be tenacious is an inspiration. Please take heart that you have a strong following who wish you success and prosperity. And f^*k the IRS! Heartless bastards.

  4. Gregory, do as Judy suggests, with a lawyer the IRS will deal and possibly return some of the penalties that the took from your account. This worked for us when my husbands business failed. We got our help from the legal aid society. I’m sure there is one in Florida. Keep the faith, this is not 5 years ago

  5. Can’t we set up some sort of crowdfunding to help you? Or would the IRS just snatch it all? You have loads of friends and supporters. As well as small amounts that people will give via PayPal, you obviously need a lump sum for your teeth and arm and what have you. Thank goodness you have a loving partner to keep you grounded.

  6. This past week I was compelled to purchase both of your mad man knitting books and one of your patterns!! I’m so sorry to hear of you difficulties yet again. They say whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger….you must be the strongest man in the world by now!!! All I can say is, Blessings to you and your partner and I pray there is an easy road out of this one for you!!

  7. Hi Gregory,

    I just read your latest post and I am shocked !

    First of all, it is not clear to me whether the ISR will eventually cancel the interests, I think this would be very sensible.

    I understand what happened is very bad, but please Gregory, please, consider your situation now is different from that of five years ago. You have achieved so much, and you are not alone. God bless Phillip for being with you, and for what I can do, you know you can count on me.

    As I anticipated, there will be a Christmas market at the end of the month, and I am going to propose the bases for sale over there. I am also seriously considering your idea of hand warmers, studying patterns and models.

    Let’s keep in close contact, all right my Friend ?

    You Are Not Alone

    Big Hugs to You and Phillip

    Giovanni

  8. I agree with the comment about getting someone to help deal with the IRS and hopefully get some of the penalties and interest decrease and maybe some of your money returned. I ordered a bear and book/T-shirt……. has anyone thought about setting up a Fund Me Account to help raise the funds for fixing your teeth and arm? (we all need help sometime). Given how hard you have worked and how well known you have become I have a hard time believing that the world at large can not be of help. My thoughts are with you, I know personally how hard it is to keep it together when issues continue to arise and feel so very overwhelming. Remember you have come a long way and as your partner reminded you ….. you are a survivor….there is good energy coming your way in the multitude of thoughts from all who have followed your story, love your bears and read your blog.

  9. I think you probably have more options to explore. There is a dentist school less than an hour away from where I live that does lots of dentistry to train their students for very reduced rates. Maybe there are options for you too.

    Negotiate down the IRS bill. You have lots of books and blog materials to document that you were homeless and never got their letter. Check to see if there is an advocacy group in the area that can help with your medical needs (both arms and teeth) as well as financial. Often your local senior citizen center can direct you to places and if they are like ours, there is no age limit.

    Please make sure to breath and explore your options. By talking to us you have started a dialog with lots of good ideas to flow.

  10. I also have a couple skeins of the Lion Brand wool that you use for bears. I will be happy to send to you. Just email me address at sgorom@aol.com. So sorry for this trouble with IRS. I have been there and did finally get out from under with their payment plan. Not easy though back then as a single mom of two girls. Hang in there. Very happy that you have a supportive partner in your life.

  11. How absolutely appalling. Would publicity (via some of the papers and radio stations that interviewed you earlier this year) help or hinder? I.e. is it likely you can reach an acceptable deal with the IRS (which might be prejudiced by publicity) or will they have to be publicly shamed into showing some humanity? I’m in a different country, so don’t know how things work over there. It’s appalling that you are having to defer medical treatment because they have just cleared you out! If only you could find a sponsor who would help with your teeth AND your arm …

  12. This blog post hit my heart hard. In 2007 my husband and myself went from a good life to homelessness losing everything we owned within one year and remained living in our car another year in our 40’s. We are still recovering slowly. My heart goes out to you, this is just so wrong on so many levels.

  13. I’m praying for you often and I feel for you. We again we’re homeless this summer. We camped most of August in a State Park- I tried to pretend it was a vacation. Except for some time in a tiny tent in a few violent storms it was a nice time to bond with my daughter.Left Colorado to stay with family back East after camping for August and running out of money and options (my husband’s paycheck was garnished for old medical bills). We suddenly had to leave NJ after I got hit by my brother-in-law and him suddenly in the night yelling at us to leave- my 13 yr. old daughter crying and running after snatching her cat. We fled and drove 2,000 miles back to Colorado. Fleeing my Brother-in-laws house- a nightmare. We returned and I had no clue how we were to live. My husband got his job back, an acquaintance got us into an apartment so my daughter could be in school (he “bought” my rockers- cheap wooden cast-off’s- for hundreds), we just got a lawyer to do a bankruptcy for Pro-bono- it will stop the garnishments. Sometimes things can be so bad that I just pray- wait before God and say- Help! Then I watch- He moves….I needed to explain this so you know- I do know in part how you feel. Sometimes the rocky times bring the best out of life- we just gotta hold our breath and pray- someday you’ll look back and say- if this horrible time had not happened such and such wonderful thing would not of happened. And I knit- I’ve got worsening carpel tunnel- so I feel for you. I knit furiously trying to catch the time I can knit- in case I can’t someday. You’ll win- hang in there!

  14. I have been waiting around on purchasing a book even though I knew I wanted one. Now I’m glad I waited. Book purchased today and you are in my prayers. It is difficult to get back up over and over but that’s how you know you are one of the strong ones.

  15. What about setting up a go fund me page to deal with the medical stuff. I’m a late-comer to your blog, but I get the feeling that you aren’t wild about straight charity, so maybe look at it as more of a loan. Get your health to where you can function, then if you feel the need repay the givers as you are able. Just a thought…hang in there!

  16. If I did not already know how heartlessly and suddenly the IRS can strike, I would find it hard to believe what they have done to you. Sadly, I have known others who have suffered from the IRS. I just want to say that I am very sorry this happened. I admire your courage as you deal with this situation.

    Patricia

  17. I am so sorry this is happening to you. I can’t believe that the IRS is spending energy on collecting from you, while so many of the rich get away with tax fraud every year. I purchased one of your books from Craftsy and I will check Ravelry for your patterns. I am so, so sorry. You have been through so much. I agree with Judy, that a there should be some free Legal Aid in your community that could help to reduce some of these penalties. It is ridiculous that the IRS would go after the homeless for not filing taxes. Don’t give up hope. So many people are on your side– You’re a World Famous Knitter, Bitch!!!

  18. Gregory, I don’t think they are entitled to anything Phillip might have contributed to the account. Even in the case of married couples they are limited to what they can take if the problem predated the marriage.. You and Phillip might need to separate your money with his name only on one account (If you don’t already I mean.) So sorry this is happening to you. I was homeless for the better part of a year in 2012. I understand about trying to make it from one day to the next. Knitting kept me sane and brought in much of the money I made during that time as well. I had a car, but sometimes it was tough to keep gas in it.

  19. I am so sorry this happened to you. I may not know the extend of your troubles and I never been homeless or without but I do know how it is when you save money to pay for repair of something (in my case it was a broken air conditioning ) and as soon as it was fixed my washing machine broke. And wouldn’t you know it my dryer broke two month later. Fortunately I was able to get stuff replaced or fixed. But it seems every time we get ahead something goes wrong. I do hope that the situation gets better for you. I will pray for you.

  20. Gregory I just purchased one of your bears. I am looking forward to his arrival and I hope that it in some way helps you out.

  21. Regarding your teeth, have you looked in to dental schools that have programs for those with little/no income? I used a dental college when I was very poor, and received wonderful care there. Regarding the IRS, they are the devil. Having dealt with them twice in my life (did you know that accountants are not responsible for their mistakes?), I have no doubt that they exist in Eeyore’s cloud. Sadly, the only way to get anywhere with them is to play nice, go see them in person if possible, and pray some day they will be banished from the earth. I’m so sorry:( I have your little Bear That Saved Me sitting by me, and so many times I’ve picked him up and held him. He is an immediate warm fuzzy, and a motivator. Can we knitters help in any way?

  22. I would urge you to write or call your congressman’s office. When I had a problem that had similarities to yours, my congressman intervened and it was straightened out what felt like immediately compared to the mind-numbing slog we were experiencing dealing with the IRS directly. At the very least, get a written accounting from the IRS and ask your congressman to intervene to get it so that you don’t have to pay any of the penalties and interest–those are often the real killer.

    Also, regarding your arm/hand pain. From the way you describe your symptoms, I’d guess that you have cervical radiculopathy–a pinched nerve in your upper neck. I’ve lived through a couple terrible sessions with it and I’m happy to talk with you via email if you’re interested. There *are* some self-care things you can do.

  23. I have yarn I can send you but as a knitter I feel when you have pain all the yarn in the world won’t help you to knit. I am so sorry to hear what happened to you and it only infuriates me because here in Hawaii they’ve been going on and on and on about how to help the homeless and when I read something like this it gets me so mad.

    I have made a small donation to you. though I am on Social Security at least I can send you a few dollars. If you would like the yarn, and believe me I don’t know how you’ll be able to knit, I can send it to you. contact me at my email at zoebird@hawaiiantel.net with your address and I will get it out to you.

    Karen Awong

  24. I can’t offer any advice as I’m over the pond, but I just wanted to tell you that you’re being heard.
    Could you use something like GoFundMe to start up the yarn stash you need?
    I’m sure people would be willing to help. When it comes to the general public, they’re pretty good people.
    (Tax people are not.)

  25. just purchased your Tigger pattern. I don’t knit – but want to learn! I crochet – perhaps that would be easier on your arm?🙂 best of luck. Be sure to look into programs – I’m from Canada – so I don’t know to much about the US but surely someone can help.

  26. Im so sorry this cruel situation has occurred. My 25 year old son has had the same thing happen in July and they continue to take 30 % of his income every pay cheque even though at this point hes more than oaid up. Its a mess. Thank God he has a brother housing him, though the girlfriend left.
    It is a ridiculous move on the IRS’ part for sure….but you are right you are a survivor…perhaps with the wind knocked out of you…but you will figure this out. You have the love of your partner, your friends here…and your talent. But please take care of your arm…i know as i developed “tennis elbow” from crocheting like a fien once…it needs long eests and short soells of knitting.
    If there is anything I can do please let me know!!
    Debbie Shipley
    North Bay, ontario CANADA

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