Monday, January 11, 2010

Charlie Seipelt: Calls to STRS

Charlie Seipelt to John Curry, January 12, 2010
I guess a cutback on the STRS staff has been made at the telephone response desk. Wow! That is a great way to save us money while frustrating the heck out of us again. I tried to contact anyone responsible for the NEW computer setup but was unable to get through to anyone at STRS. First I got a recording that all of their lines were unavailable and I should call back later. After several tries I gave up. An hour later (after lunch time) I called again and was given the message, "Thank you for holding, as a reminder, tax information for 2009 will be mailed to benefit recipients in mid-January." over and over again. Finally, after another hour I actually talked to a live person.
Well, here is what I was able to work out with the representative to make sense out of the pay information that was mailed to us last week. The problem was that after trying to get a full disclosure on our paychecks I found that the entire system was shut down as they were having glitches in the new setup. Now the system is up but there are still glitches (surprise!) The problem on phone lines is that they can only hold so many calls before it kicks out calls coming in. At least that's their story and I'll stick to it. .
After working with the representative we were able to figure out why the tax withholding page didn't match up to the snail mail report that was mailed out. Here's the problem: The system doesn't recognize the fact that the Exclusion Amount listed doesn't exclude it from the Gross Amount paid: thus, the amount of Monthly Withheld and the Calculated Tax amount doesn't correspond with the actual amount shown on the paper received. So, we worked out that once you deduct the Exclusion from the Gross the formula will successfully compute on the built-in schedule (that needs corrected) before anyone will be able to make sense of the whole process. Reread that as it is complicated! Take the Gross Benefit amount, subtract the Exclusion Amount to arrive at the Actual Tax Amount from the Federal Tax Charts. In other words, the formula provided at the web site does not recognize this process.
As an aside; my wife, a former business teacher, suggested we have addition taxes withheld back in May as she foresaw a problem once the new Federal Tax Charts came out. It has recently become evident that she was correct in doing so as the Obama Stimulus Package through the reduced tax formula will be costing most folks more when they start filling out their 1040 for 2009. Good luck! Let's hope they didn't do the "Cash for Clunkers" thing also as that will be coming back to bite them in the A .. when they have to report the capital gain from that program.
At the conclusion of our conversation I suggested: 1) fix the system at the cost to the supplier or programmer, 2) notify all retirees about the problem so they will understand and not jam the phone lines with questions about the glitch in the new (costly) computer system, 3) explain the error online and not by mail so the new process won't cost us even more money while trying to cover up the problems, and 4) not put us on hold for such a long time when we attempt to contact them. Take our phone number and call us back when it's our turn or when they have time to talk to us. The representative told me she was going directly to her supervisor to report the problem (the fix) and hopefully have it taken care of ASAP. We'll see!
Charlie Seipelt
Larry KehresMount Union Collge
Division III
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