TULSA, Okla. — At the end of a bumpy, gravel rural road in the countryside surrounded by nature's peace, we heard a story that makes heavy hearts hard to heal.
It was damp, dark, and dreary when we met a man whose wife died three years ago. A man who the Internal Revenue Service thinks passed away, too.
"Everybody thinks it's funny, though. You don't sound like you're dead and everything," Robert Carlberg said. "It is kind of humorous, but after this amount of time, it's no longer humorous."
While still grieving and after filing his 2019 tax return, Carlberg received this letter saying his return couldn't be processed. He was listed as deceased along with his wife, and his account had been locked.
Locked up with it ... painful emotional wounds and thousands of dollars in tax refunds and COVID stimulus payments he and his family are owed.
"It's a fiasco. I don't understand. I've paid my taxes," Carlberg said.
The IRS said it gets information about deceased taxpayers from the Social Security Administration. So, Carlberg was told to check with them.
But Social Security does not have him listed as deceased. So he was pointed back to the IRS, which assigned him a taxpayer advocate to help after several months of calls. But so far, nothing.
"I haven't done my taxes for 2020 yet because I'm afraid it's going to fall into the same trap," Carlberg said.
Even more puzzling, he said taxes are still being taken out of his paycheck, and he's still active in the United States Navy Reserve.
A while back, Carlberg said he was told to hold on, hang tight for another 90 days.
"I said that would take us into the next tax season, and I need that money," he said. "It's kind of hurting me."
Carlberg said it's hurting his daughters, too. They might have to drop out of college.
He said he's taken out thousands of dollars of personal loans. His daughters have earned scholarships but need more financial aid.
Carlberg said it's aid they would undoubtedly qualify for if only the IRS didn't have him listed as deceased and could release his tax information to their schools.
"It seems like it would make sense to think it's an easy fix, and I don't know why it's not," Carlberg said.
It's been said the only certainties in life are death and taxes. Carlberg and his family, it seems, have been left in limbo for both.
So, Carlberg finally called the Problem Solvers, and we made some calls of our own. Since then, he has been told his tax situation should be corrected by the end of this week.
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