May 02, 2006

Flashback: Computer Layoff Payoff Alerts IRS

Today, at lunch, a colleague and I were recalling past jobs, and how struggling companies had elected to tell their employees the jig was up, and that their time had come to an end, sooner than expected. In the Silicon Valley, it's much easier to be laid off than fired, and in the late 1990s and early parts of this decade, it was incredibly easy, regardless of your job skills.

In January of 2001, having returned from a two-week mandatory holiday break, I was asked into a conference room and told that, due to financial shortages, the senior executives had foregone pay the last month or so, and that they were extending me the same courtesy, at least until they could close necessary funding to keep the company afloat, at which point I would be paid and lose nothing. I was assured that the funding was imminent and investors were very interested. Silly me.

A week or so later, again I was summoned into the conference room, and was told that the funds never were to come, and that was the end. It wasn't just me, but all of marketing, business development and sales had been let go as well - as the company would be sustained solely with engineers until the product could be sold to the highest bidder.

Doing the math in my head, I offered to barter with the cash-strapped firm, taking my Power Macintosh G3 (Blue and White) tower and monitor with me at the end of the day, instead of a paycheck covering the year to date. It was a good deal for us both - they wouldn't have to pay, and I got a new machine setup for the house. So, at the day's conclusion, I packed up everything and lugged it to the parking lot, thinking that was the end of that, and I never returned to the office where I had worked for two years.

I very rapidly found a job, less than three weeks later, and began anew with a new adventure. But the following March, the previous firm struck back, sending me a W-2 tax form to cover the value of the computer and monitor, the very day after I had submitted my taxes with the new W-2 from the new employer, thinking myself ahead of the game.

This snafu forced me to get tax adjustment forms, resubmit and pay the remaining tax owed, something I wasn't feeling so charitable about, having been let go by the company just a year prior. Worst of all, the IRS didn't correctly file everything, though they certainly cashed my checks right away, so in the next year, I started to get letters saying I had been found negligent and still owed the additional tax - now with fines due to lateness in payment. I wasn't even allowed to submit 2002's records until the 2001 data had been resolved. Several phone calls and letters later, the agency recognized I had been right all along, but the entire ordeal makes me think that next time I get laid off, I'll take the cash, including accrued vacation time and severance, thank you very much.

Listening to ''Slowblow (Darren Price Mix)'', by Depeche Mode (Play Count: 8)

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