I Want My 63 Cents Back

Editors Note: James Hertz is a 17-year-old high school senior living in Maryland. On three occasions last year, while working a to help out a friend, he earned a total of $24 from which the employer was required to withhold Maryland income taxes amounting to 63 cents. The following letter relates to that situation.


March 28, 1963

Comptroller of the Treasury of the State of Maryland

State Treasury Building Annapolis, Maryland


I still want my 63 cents back. I asked for it when I mailed you my 1962 income tax return showing that I owed no tax for that year even though you had collected from my employer an amount assumed to be taxes due from me. When that request was refused I filed a formal refund claim, again without success. Nevertheless I still want my 630 back.

There is a fellow working for you by the name of Benjamin F. Marsh. He is the Chief of your Income Tax Division. On March 26, 1963, he wrote me a letter about my formal refund claim saying, "We will not refund to you the sum of 630." It impresses me that he said "we will not," and he didn’t say "we cannot" make the refund. I feel as though I am being pushed around and it is not right for an official of the state to do this to a citizen without just cause, no matter what the circumstances are. Ordinary citizens are important too, including those who are only high-school students.

The letter Mr. Marsh wrote to me quotes apart of the Annotated Code of Maryland (Section 310, paragraph (a), of Article 81) which he says gives you the duty or the right or the reason or the excuse (he didn’t say which) to refuse to make my refund. According to the quotation Mr. Marsh sent me, the law says amounts less than $1 shall not be refunded (though amounts more than $1 shall) to any person who pays more tax than is found to have been due. I think this may seem to give you an excuse for refusing me my refund (not a good one), but it doesn’t burden you with the duty of refusing me, and it doesn’t give you any right to refuse me, and it doesn’t give you any reason to refuse me.

I am not a person who has paid more tax than is found to have been due. So obviously I am not a person to whom this part of the law applies. In the first place, I am not the "person who has paid" the 630 we are arguing about. I never had my hands on it. My employer was required by the law to withhold it from me and to send it to you, and that is how you got it, and I never had anything to do with it. On top of that, I am not even a person in whose case more has been paid than is due. No tax for 1962 has ever been due from me to the State of Maryland. This isn’t even a case involving taxes, and the refund I am asking for won’t even be a tax refund when you finally send it to me.

More than that even. I understand I am not even a person who was required by law to file a 1962 tax return. I did it only to get my money back and this much by itself was an imposition on my time and on my good nature.

Now all these things make me feel that you people have told me your excuse for giving me a hard time, but, you didn’t tell me it was your duty to give me a hard time, and you didn’t say anything about your right to do it or your reason for doing it.

My position, on the other hand, and believe me I understand it, is based on a sound principle which is that under law no payment should be collected by the state in the name of taxes from anybody who doesn’t owe taxes, and the size of the amount involved doesn’t make any difference. I have already spent more than 630 arguing with you, and you have already spent more than 630 arguing with me, but it has been explained tome that at least in the case of my expenses I must incur them as a decent citizen. There are two reasons for this. One is that I have an obligation to educate myself about the proper relationship between an American citizen and his governments. The other is that, if necessary, I must be willing to bear some expenses in order to educate folks like your friend Mr. Marsh, or at least to remind them when they start forgetting the things that are important. What explanation there can be for your people spending more than 630 in an argument like this escapes my imagination, and I haven’t found anybody else who can understand a decent reason for it.

Now I am going to try to solve your problem for you and also get my 630 back so that we can be through with this expensive argument.

With this letter I am sending you my amended State of Maryland income tax return for 1962. This return shows, just like the first one did, that I owe no income tax for 1962, but that 630 was withheld from me and collected by you nevertheless. It differs from the return previously filed in that I am sending you with this amended return a postal money order for 380, payable to you, and there is reported on the return that this 380 has been paid to you on account of 1962 taxes bringing the total overpayment to $1.01. Finally, this amended return respectfully requests the refund of the $1.01 overpayment.

This should enable Mr. Marsh to escape the awful consequences of making the forbidden 630 refund, and at the same time it should enable me to get my money back.

Please do not quote me any law which prohibits your accepting this 380 when paid, as it is in this case, for the purpose of breaking the log jam. Also please do not quote me any law which gives you any right or any excuse to complicate this matter any further by any other means. And please do not tell me you have a right to keep my 630 and use it just because you think you have no right to send it back to me. It is mine no matter how long you hold on to it.

Now please send me my $1.01.


James Herz

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