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A Dime Late; And 54 Dollars Short

March 8, 1990

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A dime’s worth of difference is nothing to sneeze at where the Internal Revenue Service is concerned.

When Mary Frances Stinson of Dorchester, Mass., filed her tax return in 1987, she was 10 cents short on her payment. Nearly three years later the IRS notified her that the 10-cent debt had grown to $54.94 because of interest and penalties.

The computer-generated form letter said the IRS had assessed a $24 late- payment penalty plus $30.84 interest on the late payment. However, the billing noted that under the law, the penalty cannot exceed 25 percent of the late payment - in this case that would be 2 cents.

The interest rate charged on late payments has been averaging around 10 percent, or about a penny a year calculated from the April 15, 1987, due date of Ms. Stinson’s return to the Oct. 30, 1989, date of the IRS’s late-payment letter.

Ms. Stinson took her case to the National Coalition of IRS Whistleblowers, a Washington-based organization established by the Church of Scientology, which gave a copy of the bill to a reporter.

Ms. Stinson could not be reached to determine the outcome of the case, and the IRS is prohibited by law from comment on tax files.

However, IRS spokesman Wilson Fadely said today that since a stamp costs 25 cents, ″I wouldn’t think we would even send a notice on 10 cents due.″ If an erroneous bill is sent, he added, ″you should just write and tell us.″

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