Meriden tour company says refund 'fell through the cracks'

Barbara Zentarski of Plantsville was looking forward to a tour of Bar Harbor, Maine, and Acadia National Park for the middle of August in 2012.

But one week before the trip, Silver Mill Tours, the Meriden tour operator, canceled it because of a lack of interest.

The company assured Zentarski that the $739 she had paid would be refunded quickly. But a year and a half later, the refund still had not arrived.

"I called them several times, e-mailed them and all I get is the run around. I contacted the Attorney General's office in June and they didn't do much except email them and they couldn't get my money back. I'm the innocent party here and all I want is my $739 refunded back to me," she wrote CtWatchdog. "When I did have communication with them I was told that the bus company had my money."

I contacted Donna Calvy, owner of Silver Mill Tours, who said the bus operator kept all the payments and she has been involved in a legal dispute with them. However, Calvy said she has repaid all the other customers and that somehow Zentarski "fell through the cracks."

She immediately sent a check to Zentarski for the full amount.

How to minimize IRS audits

Like most Americans, the thought of getting a letter from the IRS can cause your stomach to tie up in a knot. While protecting yourself completely from audits is impossible, you can limit the odds.

The IRS pulls names out of the hat for random audits.

"The IRS audited one out of every 104 tax returns in federal fiscal year 2013. It's becoming increasingly evident that the greater your total income, the more you'll attract the agency's attention. Last year, the IRS audited about 10.85 percent of taxpayers with income greater than $1 million," says Rick Rodgers, author and certified financial planner from Lancaster, Pa.

They also like to hone in on those with large incomes and those who run businesses where there is lots of cash - restaurants, beauty parlors, liquor stores.

To reduce your chances of an audit make sure you have plenty of backup support for deductions like charitable gifts, travel and entertainment, home office, rental property expenses and use of your vehicle. These deductions are the ones the IRS like to check out.

If you are a self-employed taxpayer or have unusual circumstances that place your return outside of the statistical norm, let a professional prepare the return. Self- prepared returns are more likely to be audited. The IRS believes that a non-professional has limited knowledge of the 4,000 pages of tax code, Rodgers says.

"There is no way to completely audit-proof your return, and if you do get an audit notice from the IRS, don't take it personally. It does not mean the IRS believes your return is fraudulent. Tax law is complex."

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