Gee, I Had No Idea I Had A Business–and Employees To Boot!

Do you ever do that bit where you google your name, and see what wacko stuff comes up that’s supposedly associated with you?

Yeah, admit it, we all do…

Over the weekend, for giggles and grins, I googled not my married name, but my maiden name (which happens to still be my legal name, for various and sundry reasons having to do with when I was working way back before I became married).

To my shock, I discovered that I have a business!

Really? Wow, that’s news to me…

With 2 employees no less! And I’m supposedly getting a chunk of change from annual sales, as well!

It’s posted on the Internet, on sites that have obtained information from (supposedly) Dun and Bradstreet, so it must be true, right?

Yeah, right.

Before I go any further, let’s clear the record: I don’t have a business. Nope. Never have. It’s not even remotely possible for me to even fathom, given my level of disability. Sheesh.

Me having a business is as likely as me being the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus.

Geez, Louise, where do these sites get this nonsense?

It took a bit of detective work on my part, but I think I’ve figured it out. It’s a crazy tale indeed–and one tied to the insanity of what happens when someone like me becomes disabled.

First thing to know: when you are disabled, stuff like health insurance doesn’t pay for someone to take over all things you used to do to keep a household going. Nope. It pays for “medically necessary” caregiving, which boils down to stuff like getting a catheter changed if you require one and don’t have anyone in your family that can be trained how to do that.

That means that if you need trifles done like laundry and picking up prescriptions (get the picture?), you hire someone to do that, usually as a household worker, or you hire an agency to do that for you.

If you hire a household worker, and you’re scrupulously honest (like most average Americans, not like the silly wealthy people you read about that hire a nanny and pay cash under the table and then, duh, are shocked when they rightfully get their butt kicked by the IRS for it), you have to do all kinds of things that an ‘employer’ does, even though you aren’t running a business–and even though you’re paying out money, not taking money in.

For example, in Wisconsin at least, you must have worker’s compensation insurance for that person, and pay quarterly unemployment taxes. If they’re going to use a car to run errands (like when getting that prescription), then you need to make sure you have car insurance that covers them during the hours they’re working for you. On the federal level, you have to pay Medicare and Social Security taxes for them. You have to file a W-2. You must also file a “Schedule H” with your yearly personal income taxes every year that you have a household employee (the Schedule H is the IRS’s ” Household Employment Taxes” form — designed just for these types of situations). Everyone must do this, incidentally, who hires an individual (not an independent contractor or business) to mow the lawn, or baby-sit kids, if they pay that person (2010 threshold) more than $1700 a year.

Trust me on this, it’s a total pain in the butt, especially if you’re like me and want to make sure you always do everything honestly. You can pay out as much in insurance and taxes to the government to have a person run your washing machine as you pay a person to actually do the task. And you can’t claim any of it as a medical expense–it’s another one of those hidden costs of being disabled. However, when you become fully disabled, it’s really the only choice you have, unless you hire an agency. Those, however, are way more expensive, and you have much less control over the quality of the people that are going to come breezing into your life to help with the tasks that you can no longer do yourself.

Still with me? Good.

Now, here’s the next complication. You can’t get the state-mandated worker’s comp insurance for that 10-hour-a-week laundress, or file required state unemployment comp taxes (or many other things involved in having a household worker), unless you have something called a FEIN: a Federal Employer Identification Number. The federal Schedule H also asks for a FEIN, although apparently a social security number can be used on that form instead. However, in Wisconsin at least, the State gets confused trying to match its records, which it bases on the FEIN, to the IRS’s Schedule H if you fill out the Schedule H using your SSN. And then lots of people get their knickers in a knot trying to straighten it out. So, it’s dumb to use the SSN on the Schedule H and end up making everyone testy.

But… how does all this fit with web sites claiming I have a business? Ah, Grasshopper, read that acronym again: FEIN. Federal Employer Identification Number.

aHA!! Ding! Now we’re closer to solving the mystery of “my” phantom business!

If I have a FEIN, I must be an employer, right? Which means I have a business, right?

Wrong.

From what I can figure out, companies harvest FEIN information and then sell it. No distinction gets made as to whether a FEIN is a “real” business or is, as in my case, simply an individual who is disabled and had to jump through about a bazillion hoops to have someone pick up my prescriptions.

Apparently, companies and sites harvesting this information aren’t doing any checking to see if the information they’re publishing is even remotely accurate in other ways, either. For example, my phantom business lists me as having almost six-figures of yearly sales. Wow! Who knew? I wonder what I’ve supposedly been selling? Phantom Fairy Dust? The inaccuracy becomes excruciatingly even more ridiculous as I haven’t even had a household employee for years, not since a family member became my full-time caregiver.

The icing on the cake? There is no way to remove this ridiculously incorrect information from these websites. There is no way to stop the FEIN information from getting misused, misconstrued and propagated throughout the web in this fashion.

Argh.

It’s ludicrous.

Adding Injury to Insult

Still here.

Still fighting the respiratory infection.

Doc M. gave me a good checkout, and says we’ve been able to keep it from turning into pneumonia (yay!) but…

I think I broke a rib (or two) Thursday night from the coughing.

This bug sucks.

Cough Cough Hack Sniffle Wheeeeeeze…

I’m not ignoring blogging, Oh Best Beloved. Just too sick. I acquired a nasty bug that has been most wearisome. Between the coughing, snuffles, wheezing, chills and fevers I’m not doing particularly well.

Add to that the 7-week-long toothache that hasn’t resolved (the dentists haven’t figured out yet what’s going on, as said tooth looks quite happy – but isn’t).

*sigh*

Now would be a good time for organic whiskey to make an appearance in the marketplace.

Need. Honey.  Whiskey.  Lemon Juice. Lots.

I’m going back to bed.

Ouch!

Sometimes… life happens. I’m still here… just having a bit of difficulty using my ‘puter as I’m dealing with a nasty uber-flare of neck and back problems that has lasted over four weeks now. The result: certain activities, like looking at a computer screen, are even more limited than usual.

Blech.

Bunnies are fine, no good baby bunny photos yet but I took some vid of one noshing down a gladioulus that I’ll share. Lots of other photos and stories to tell…

Back soon. I hope!

Spring Is Sprung

Patch of Blooming Purple Crocus That The Rabbits Hadn't Eaten - Yet!

So, where have you been? asks you.

*sigh*

Not enjoying myself, that’s for certain. It’s been a rather nasty three weeks, requiring us to focus our energies on trifling things like trying to obtain ‘customer service’ from our lousy land-line telephone provider. Did you know that almost every one of the AT&T “customer service reps” we spoke to at AT&T’s service center during one marathon five-hour period was named “Danny,” even though none of them could even pronounce the name Danny? Odd, that…

*ahem*

The problem we have remains unresolved because I, of course, need to provide AT&T with my seven-digit customer ID number in order to obtain service, an ID number which, according to multiple “Dannies,” is clearly printed on every bill. Unfortunately, this number does not appear anywhere on an AT&T online customer’s account, and as online customers don’t get printed bills it creates a bit of a problem discovering just what this ID number is. And why didn’t we just ask for our 7-digit ID? Well, one must first provide the seven-digit customer ID number for the account one is asking about before one can get the customer ID for that account released.

Hello?

If I had my customer ID, why would I be calling to get it?

This, Oh Best Beloved, is why the phrase “customer service” has become an oxymoron.

I’d love to switch, but living in a village with only two approved telephone carriers makes that impossible, as services like DSL — even from third-party companies in our area — require us to have (surprise, surprise), AT&T as our local provider.

Deregulation of the phone company has so NOT worked.

Let’s see, what else has gone on?

We’ve been arguing with our 900-pound gorilla of a health insurer, who seems determinedly committed to spending my premiums on finding ways to avoid paying for covered services instead of paying for those covered services. This is an ongoing battle that leaves me exhausted. I’d think we were alone in this, if I didn’t know that this particular company has received enormous fines in another state from that state’s Insurance Commissioner for the exact practices that they are apparently following in ours.

I’m starting to feel as if health and disability insurers as a class (not all – but many) are the robber barons of the 21st century. And before anyone chides me about how I just don’t understand: don’t even start. I indeed do understand and what I’ve witnessed as standard operating procedures within an industry where both I and Michael worked leaves me appalled.

Then… Michael has had to tackle upgrading my little laptop’s operating system. Sounds easy, no?

No.

Because of my physical limitations, I use a specialized laptop which has all sorts of proprietary drivers in its innards which do not happily and easily upgrade. All those drivers are custom, all must come from the manufacturer, and none of them seem to interface easily with Microsoft’s standard systems. On top of that, we’ve been fighting with parts of the new operating system itself, which must get reconfigured one at a time to what we need. To say that it has been a royal pain in the rump would be an understatement at best. It’s not as if Michael is a weekend geek who doesn’t know what he’s about, I might add. This is a guy that is fluent in multiple machine languages, and at the tender age of 23 designed the computer chip used in one of the first external pacemakers approved for use in emergency rooms.

Yep, I’m talking about that kind of geek.

Go, Michael, go!

Whilst all this (and much more) has kept us occupied, Spring has crept in, gently nudging winter from the land. The first crocus blooms opened, and were thoroughly enjoyed by Stewart less than six hours after I photographed them. Most of the snow has melted, and here and there bits of greenery have appeared. Daffodils are within days of blooming, and two pairs of cardinals are vying for ownership of the bird feeders.

I can’t wait for the new baby bunnies to arrive!