The Wealth Education Foundation -            Teaching Financial Principles That Change Lives

Bureaucracy In-Action

     Recently I got some valuable insight into how the  government works; not to mention how the state and federal governments work (and sometimes don’t work) together. 
     It all started with a simple form called “Articles of Incorporation” that you have to fill out if you want to be a corporation., As a non-profit organization, we had to be a corporation (as opposed to a Sole Proprietorship or Partnership),  so we filled  out the form for the state of Pennsylvania and they sent it back to us stamped and approved.  No problems there.  Then we had to file with the federal government for  our 501c3 designation, which will make us a charitable organization able to get grant money, and they asked us to send in our state approved Articles of Incorporation with the federal 501c3 application.  We sent all these documents in to the federal government and something like 10 days later we got a response saying that they had received our application and they would assign someone to our case when they could.  Every few months we would call and ask what was happening to our application and the only response we ever got was that we had not been assigned a case-worker yet and we just needed to wait.  It was almost a year later that we got a letter saying that they had FINALLY assigned someone to our case and they would be reviewing our application.  Several times they sent a list of questions they wanted answered before they would approve us.  Finally,  they sent a letter saying we had answered all their questions but needed to add a particular statement to our “Articles of Incorporation” saying that if we went out of business we would give our charitable monies to another 501c3 (charitable) corporation rather than keep the money ourselves.  The law makes perfect sense, but seemed impossible to comply with because the “Articles of Incorporation” is a pre-written form which we just sign and plug in our name!  There is no way to “amend” the document.  When we told our federal government case worker this, she said that there is a new form that was updated by Pennsylvania with the required statement on it that we needed to get, fill out, and turn in instead of the old form.  They said that the state of PA has had it for a while but never got around to posting it online so everyone is using the wrong form now.  We needed to find somebody in the Pennsylvania state government that knows this form exists and can get us one so that we can fill it out, pay another $70.00, and turn it in. On top of all this, they informed us that if we did not send it back to them within the next 5 days that they would have to close our case … the one we had just waited for a year to be opened.  So we got the form, filled it out, and sent it in, but it seemed impossible that they could get it back in less than a week.  It was.  They closed our case and a week later our new, amended Articles were approved by the state government.  The federal government said not to worry if they closed our case as it was just a formality and they would resume it once the form was submitted.  Of course, we don’t really know what that means or how long it will take to resume or even if there’s something special we should do to get the case re-opened.  No one gave us that information.  So we turned in the form and we have not heard from them yet.  Currently we have no idea if our case is open or closed and the case worker is no longer returning or answering our calls.  We are left completely in the dark right now.
     From this whole crazy experience I have learned that government bureaucracies are very flawed. And even though they are a vital part of a functioning United States, they need a lot of work done to them to create more efficient and less frustrating processes.
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