ANNAPOLIS -- After 10 months of battling with an Internal Revenue Service computer, a retired Annapolis police officer hopes that his ordeal is finally over.

But, the saga has left John F. Campbell a firm believer in a flat income tax rate.

IRS officials told him that if he had not neglected to itemize his interest income, rather than just including it in the total in his 1984 tax return, he could have avoided the saga.

The red tape odyssey reached its peak in August, when the IRS placed a freeze on part of his savings account -- for $20 in interest on a refund check the tax authority mistakenly issued and Campbell never cashed.

The ordeal began with the error in the 1984 tax return, which prompted the computer to send Campbell a $600 check, which he spent.

When he realized that he was not due it, Campbell returned the refund check amount, plus interest.

Then, in February of this year, the computer sent Campbell another check, this time for $752.

Campbell returned the mistaken refund to the IRS office, where an official promised to take care of it.

But a month later, the computer billed him again, for $772.

Again he was assured that the problem would be taken care of. But in June he got another bill, for $792.

In August, IRS officials straightened that out -- almost. The computer continued billing Campbell for the interest on the check he never cashed, which was about $20. When he did not pay the $20, the IRS sent his bank an order to withhold up to one-fifth of the interest on his $17,000 in savings. The IRS has sent a letter to Campbell's bank explaining the mix-up.