Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: Your advice to "Frustrated" in Syracuse, N.Y., was OK, but I strongly recommend the following: First, do not communicate with the Internal Revenue Service yourself. Second, hire an accountant to work on the debt to determine if it is justified and to possibly get the amount reduced. Let him/her communicate with the IRS. Third, allow the accountant to put you in touch with a good tax attorney who may be able to get the debt eliminated entirely. Fourth, and maybe most important, NEVER accept what the IRS says you owe, because once you have made them work so hard to no or little success, they won't bother with you in the future. -- Wiser, Kankakee, Mich.

DEAR WISER: I completely concur that when you have a challenge with the IRS, you should bring in professional support. A tax accountant can help you go through all of the paperwork and has the eye to spot any inconsistencies as well as the experience to know when a tax law is appropriate to use or not. The tax code changes all the time, and it is best to have a professional support you in an audit or any other tax conflict.

DEAR HARRIETTE: One of my best friends and I talk all the time. We have a good friendship, but we rarely see each other. The other day, I sent her pictures of my home, something I never do because I feel like it is always kind of messy, which is why I hardly ever have people over. She had convinced me to show her. Right away she started telling me what I should do with my stuff. That is the last thing I wanted or expected from her, given how many conversations we have had about our homes. She keeps asking me if she can come over, but now I really don't want to invite her. If she is criticizing me about a photo, I don't think I can take her in-person comments.

I am not in hiding, by the way, or delusional about my cleanliness. I have been working hard to get my place together. But I do not want anyone passing judgment, especially a good friend. What can I say to her? -- Messed Up, Syracuse, N.Y.

DEAR MESSED UP: It is likely that your friend started in with her suggestions with the intention of supporting you. It is understandable, though, that you did not experience it as that. You can tell her that you are not ready to have her input.

But do not stop there. Make a schedule for the next month giving yourself a task to accomplish each day. Methodically clean up your home, and toss out anything you can. When you feel comfortable, ask for help. You may want to get a service to come in to do some heavy cleaning. You can call a charity to come pick up the items you want to give away. When you are more comfortable, invite your friend to visit and let her know you do not welcome her comments.