Eye-Opening Moments are real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. In this episode you will hear about Life on Auction and Getting Audited.
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Hello and welcome to episode #59 of Eye-Opening Moments where you’ll hear real-life stories of adversity, encounters, and perspectives intertwined. They are moments that can lift your spirits, give you some food for thought, or move you. For the introspective mind that likes to reflect, discover, and find solutions or meaning in a complex life, this is for you. I’m your host Emily Kay Tan. In this episode, you will hear about Life on Auction and Getting Audited.
Life on Auction
"If you or someone from the United States don't come here to sign for all these things in two weeks, all your items will be auctioned off, " said the man from a shipping company in the island nation who received my things from the USA. I was shocked to hear this because the shipping company in the USA told me anyone could sign off for the stuff I shipped. As it turned out, that was not the case. The shipping company said I had to be present to sign for it, or someone else from the USA had to arrive and sign for it. Though I pleaded with the man on the phone about my situation, he persisted with the shipping rules the island nation and gave me no exception.
Why couldn't I fly to the island nation to sign off on my things? Why was it so difficult to get to this foreign land where I was moving to live and work? If I didn't pick up my stuff in the next fourteen days, the shipping company would sell practically everything I owned to the highest bidder. My life would be at an auction if I didn't arrive in time.
My heart sank, and fear set in. My head hurt, and my eyes watered; what was I to do? I shipped most of my belongings by sea mail in April and estimated they would arrive abroad by June. What I had left with me was minimal. All my belongings sailed across the Pacific Ocean to the other side of the world, far away from me. They arrived in June as I had hoped because I had planned to arrive in June. However, I couldn't get myself there.
Back in February, I began the enormous task of packing all my things in preparation to move abroad. The plan was to leave nothing behind, so everything had to be sold, donated, tossed, or kept. I had to finish packing by the end of February because I was leaving on vacation for all of March. I did it! My belongings were ready to be shipped by sea in April. I anticipated it would take two months, so my things should arrive in the faraway land in June when I planned to be there. Proud that I completed the task, I was ready for a scheduled relaxing and spiritual journey to Bhutan in March for a month.
I had waited months for this eagerly anticipated trip. My first trip to Bhutan was so memorable that I had to return and find a way to get there this second time. I enjoyed two weeks of peace and quiet in the land of happiness.
By the time it was my third week in Bhutan, it was officially announced that the world was in a pandemic because of Covid-19. In disbelief, one thing after another quickly happened to let me know it was a serious matter. My volunteer work in Bhutan halted instantly; at that time, it had only ONE case of an infected person. Locals told me I could stay in the country or go home. Since there wasn't much to do, I decided to catch a flight home. But flight after flight was canceled, so I was stranded in Bhutan. Despite being stuck, I was in a safe place. It was an unexpected complication. Because the deadly virus spread, it wasn't easy to get a flight home. It was unnerving not knowing when I could get home safely.
After two weeks, I finally got a flight home. I soon began to book my ticket for my move abroad. Covid-19 cases were increasing, and my reserved flights were canceled repeatedly. I was concerned that I would not arrive as planned in my new home abroad.
June 2020 came, and I could not get a flight out of the USA because of travel bans. I had endured a year of no income, so it was urgent that I made my move abroad and be gainfully employed as I had already secured a job abroad. I bought one ticket after another because the airlines were canceling the flights. I was not getting refunds, so I stopped trying to get a plane ticket.
Listening to the news did not bring hope that the virus would disappear soon. I hoped that in reading the news, I would find that the travel ban would be lifted, but there was no good news. Waiting and waiting for good news seemed to elude me. And what else could I do but wait?
Then I got another call from the shipping company abroad telling me I had one week left to claim my things. I explained the travel ban, but the man on the phone didn't seem to care. Even though we were in a global pandemic, he would not make any adjustments. He was a stickler for rules. I couldn't understand why he didn't comprehend since this travel ban affected many people.
Panic set in; what was I to do with my life? I was already low on money, and now what little I had overseas would be auctioned off? Are they going to open all the boxes and invade my privacy? Would they even sell my undergarments? Thinking of my life on auction was disheartening. What possessions would I have left? What would become of me? It felt like I was getting stripped naked, and no one cared if I would be in my birthday suit.
Of course, I could buy new things to replace the old stuff, but I was low on cash. How important were they to my life if I were to lose all my things? I pondered the importance of material goods. I moved to my friend's house because I couldn't afford rent anymore. Now I felt homeless, too.
Nearly in tears, I called a friend of mine about my predicament. I knew she would be able to help me because she was a citizen from the other country and she was living in the USA. She would be qualified to fly there, enter that country, and sign paperwork to claim my stuff for me. Since she was a citizen of that country, she was exempt from the travel ban. Since I am an American, I was not exempt from the ban.
Though I knew my friend qualified, I hated to ask for help. I have always hated asking for help and have come to be proud of being fiercely independent. I also didn't think she or anyone would do it for me; it was too much to ask of anyone. She would have to fly over to sign the papers to claim my possessions. After that, the shipping company would release my things. My employer would also then be allowed to move my stuff into storage, and my friend would go off to quarantine for two weeks.
To my incredible surprise, my friend, Selina, agreed to do the deed. Of course, I paid for her airfare and all her expenses during the trip. That was not easy on my pocketbook, but it was a matter of life or death for my life belongings. She saved my life from going on auction!
Despite being thrown into dire straits while attempting to move abroad during a pandemic, I am most thankful for having a lifeline and a friend I could count on to be there for me in times of great need. It was not a big deal to my friend Selina whom I have known for several decades. I have told her many times how grateful I am to have such a great friend as her, but she would say it is because of who I am that I have great friends. It was great to have all my possessions back, but more valuable was to have a friend like Selina.
I received a letter in the mail that said I was being audited. I had an appointment with the IRS. I felt so important I got noticed by them. To my surprise, instead of freaking out, I shocked the auditors!
I had joined a business where my status was “fuzzy” or unclear. On the one hand, I was an employee, but on the other hand, I was like an independent contractor. The company provided me with the products to sell, and I only made money when I sold something. It sounds like being a lone saleslady. However, there were other specifications that I never fully understood.
My first appointment with the IRS sounded like an inquiry about my expenses. I was a bit nervous but did not think I had done anything wrong. The agent asked for the meaning of my expenses. I explained that while I was an employee with the company that provided me with all the material I needed to sell the products, I also needed to spend money. I bought business cards, used mileage to meet with potential customers, spent money on a printer and paper to make flyers for advertising, paid for attending conventions, and more. The agent only listened.
The meeting in a cubicle with one agent talking very little felt cold and unfriendly. There was another person present who did not speak. I suppose she was a witness, but I did not ask. They both wore black suits. Was I attending my own funeral? Was I going to be stripped of the tax deductions I made? Did I not fill out the tax forms accurately? Why was I being audited? How could I be audited when I made so little money? Did they not have better things to do than to audit this insignificant being that is me? I had many questions for them but did not ask them out loud. I told myself I didn’t want to say anything that could hurt me, so I only spoke when asked. At any rate, it was unnerving how little they said. I wondered what they wanted from me.
The meeting was less than forty-five minutes, but it felt like two hours as I spoke and waited for a response or reaction to each sentence I said. Finally, the meeting was over, and we scheduled another appointment for me to return with receipts of my expenses. I was under the impression that the ordeal would be over if I produced the receipts for all my business expenses. I was elated.
After that first meeting, I bounced with joy as I walked to my car to drive home. I was now happy to be audited because I was finally going to have the chance to show my budget book. I was finally going to have the opportunity to show my pride and joy.
I had been keeping a budget book each year for over twenty-five years, and someone other than my ex-husband was going to lay eyes on them. In each budget bookbinder, I included receipts, manually written categories, dates, the name of each expenditure, and the amount of money spent on each item. Though you could type in all the information on a spreadsheet on the computer these days, I never made the transition. I was proud of my organization and consistency; I was happy that I would be showing it to the auditors!
It was May 2007 when I walked into the auditor’s cubicle for the second appointment. I brought in my binder for the year 2006. I proceeded to open it to each month with the business category page. It showed the dates when the items were purchased and the amounts spent on each. The auditor then randomly asked for the receipt of some things. Without fumbling or hesitation, I pulled out the receipts. For each month, my budget book had a “pocket” page for me to put my receipts. I ordered my receipts from the most recent purchase on top and the earliest purchase on the bottom. I stapled each month of receipts together. Looking at the date and item asked for, I pulled out that month’s receipts and turned to the receipt with that date. It showed the item purchased, the date, and the amount. Inside of me, I said, “Ha! What else do you want to see? I can show you.” Receipt after receipt, I showed her.
The auditor was flabbergasted. Her stoic face showed a tiny smirk; I think the smirk should have been coming from my face. Perhaps she was smiling in satisfaction and was glad to be done with me to move on to the next possible victim. The other person, who was silent, looked at my binder and organization with wide eyes as if in disbelief that I could quickly show the proof for any expense they questioned.
I left the office in triumph. Not only did I prove my expenses valid, but I got to show my great organization and management in my budget book.
Getting audited could have been frightening if I had not prepared for it. As it turned out, it was a triumphant occasion because I had been preparing for it nearly all my life and I didn’t know it!
How was I so prepared? When I was a teenager in college asking for financial aid, the financial officer asked me to keep records of all my expenses. He didn’t believe I spent less than the average college student, so he asked me to do the task. Little did I know that the task I began doing as a teenager became a life-long habit I continue to do. It has kept me on track in saving money and controlling my expenses. This I knew to do as a matter of survival because I had a limited amount of money or was never rich. Fortunately, this habit also saved me when I got audited!
Lesson learned: Always be prepared. You never know; what you do today could significantly impact your future!
Key Takeaways: Though there was a global pandemic and a travel ban that would throw my life belongings to auction if I did not arrive in time to sign the necessary paperwork, my dear friend Selina saved my possessions for me.
Though I got audited, I had nothing to fear because I was well-prepared.
Next week, you will hear two new real-life stories called Cursed or Blessed and Can One Make A Difference? If you enjoyed this episode of Eye-Opening Moments, please share it with others, subscribe, support the show by clicking on the link in the description, or go to www.inspiremereads.com and leave a message. Thank you for listening!