As they do each year, Hughson's Dave and Ann Milhous gathered up all of their tax information, including W-2s, 1099s and charitable donation receipts.
In late February, Ann took the package to the post office in Turlock to ship it to their tax preparer in San Jose. She paid $10 to send it by certified mail. They waited and waited for their tax man to send them back the finished product so they could mail in their returns.
"We kept after our tax preparer -- 'Why are you not sending our stuff back?' Ann said. "They said, 'Because we never got it.' "
In late March, the Milhouses gained a greater understanding of what certified means. They received notice that their package certifiably had been delivered to the wrong address.
Worse yet, that wrong address was the Internal Revenue Service's facility in Fresno, meaning their packet of personal information is sitting in a heap waiting to be processed. And that won't happen because their accountant never received their information and thus never completed their taxes.
And even worse than the worse-yet part, Ann can't seem to get through to an actual person at the Fresno IRS office to ask if someone will find the information and return it to them so that their tax man can work his magic. "Whenever I try to call, I get put on hold for 30 minutes," she said.
In fact, the only response and help they've gotten from the IRS -- never known as a warm and fuzzy bunch -- is a letter stating that if they do owe money, to pay it on time.
The Milhouses expect to get a refund, so it shouldn't be a problem. Still ...
"Nothing about being sorry" that they haven't found the packet and returned it, Ann said.
Nor has she gotten an explanation from the post office about how their information wound up in Fresno which, if my AAA road map isn't outdated, is still due south of Modesto. San Jose is due west.
She said an official with the post office in Turlock confirmed that yes, their package went to Fresno, which they already knew.
"They can't tell me how it happened or why," she said. She did demand -- and got -- her $10 back, but it's of little consolation.
Dave Milhous -- whose grandfather was President Richard M. Nixon's first cousin -- is an electrical engineer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and farms almonds. He is, she said, a stickler for accuracy and detail. It was the first time he hadn't made duplicates of all their documents.
They won't make that mistake again, Ann said. "Now we've got to get duplicates of everything -- our W-2s, our 1099s -- everything," Ann said. "We've got to re-do it all. We've never had to file for an extension in 20 years. We will this year."
She finished collecting the replacement documents last week and soon will send them to their tax preparer -- using UPS or FedEx.
You can certify that, too.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at 578-2383 or email@example.com