Saturday, March 24, 2007

The "IRS Mission" 

Something I'm sure you don't know: Mrs. TigerHawk is skilled at dramatic readings from regulatory and legal documents. This morning, while we were plowing through the vast pile of mail that has accumulated since, well, the last time we bothered to dig through it, she uncovered "Publication 1" from the United States Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 1" is titled "Your Rights As A Taxpayer," and it contains a sidebar legend, "The IRS Mission":

Provide America's taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and by applying the tax law with integrity and fairness to all.

Right. That's what I'm looking for from the IRS: top quality service. I can safely say that the IRS has never once helped me "understand and meet" my "tax responsibilities." For that I have always turned to big thick books, TurboTax, or a smart guy named Ross (increasingly Ross).

I, for one, would prefer to get top quality service from, say, the guys who fix our roads, run our schools, spy on our enemies, deliver our mail, manage our socialized trains and evacuate our citizenry. The only reason why we need "top quality service" from the IRS is that we -- meaning those of us who elected the fools in the United States Congress -- have conjured up an impossible system of federal taxation, complex far out of proportion to the corresponding laws and regulations in other rich, highly taxed democracies.

In any case, I think our government -- at all levels and branches -- would do well to reduce the bullshit coefficient of bureaucratic communications. I therefore propose that the IRS adopt the following as its bullshit-free mission statement:
To collect all the taxes required to be paid under the laws and regulations of the United States by any lawful means.

I'm not actually a cynic, which is why I hate the relatively new bureaucratic fad that our government needs to wrap all bad news in nonsense (this horrid trend has bled into business, by the way, for legal rather than political reasons, and it is weakening American pragmatism, perhaps our most important national attribute). I think most Americans -- at least outside of academia -- can handle the truth: We have the IRS because some agency has to collect the taxes necessary to pay for all the other stuff that we apparently want from our government. Its job is a difficult one because our taxes are absurdly complex.


By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Sat Mar 24, 10:18:00 AM:

The key to avoiding IRS hassles is to burn them bad.

Some years ago I didn't file for about 5 years, but had carefully planned that I was paying in a few hundred extra each year -- so I owed them nothing.

After a while I started getting threatening letters, etc which I continued to ignore. Then eventually they garnished wages (being sure they were owed more tax, which they weren't).

So I quickly threw together a few years of forms and went down to the local IRS office in Ft Lauderdale and commenced to demand $1,000+ in refunds...which they grudgingly paid.

I've never heard from them since. When they call someone in, its with the expectation of collecting something like $200+ in extra tax for every hour they spend on your case. When you turn the tables and burn them for a refund on an audit, they flag your file as one to be avoided in the future.

The "don't hassle flag" exists, I found it.  

By Blogger Andrewdb, at Sat Mar 24, 10:40:00 AM:

I don't like "any lawful means" - how about "fairly" - otherwise you are right - their job is to apply the law and collect revenue, not pretend to anything else.  

By Blogger The Leading Wedge, at Sat Mar 24, 12:39:00 PM:

As an ex-pat, I have some unusual, and ridiculous, tax issues. I have received loads of help from the IRS. When I call them, I really get the feeling they really want to help me - even to the point of giving me pointers about how to avoid paying unecessary tax. I appreciate that service level and am happy I don't have to pay some professional to get it.

That said, I agree that the complexity of the tax system is maddening. My friends here in socialist Norway, who have lived in the U.S., joke about how Byzantine the U.S. bureaucracy is, in general. I can't argue. Bureaucracy in any form should be simplified.  

By Blogger Habu1, at Sat Mar 24, 01:09:00 PM:

"Hi, I'm here from the government to help you".....if you ever hear those words run, run like the wind..

The IRS has a caveat they live by and that is that even if THEY provide you with the wrong information YOU are still at fault for a snafu on your return....so m uch for their help.....

But then who you gonna run to?
An attorney right. So instead of the IRS getting everything, now the attorney and the IRS get everything.

In this country we have an immense law enforcement population, a huge court system, a Corpus Juris Secundum that would smother an iron furnace fire.

The cop on the beat is sworn to uphold the Constitution but he's probably never read it. He'll be happy to tell you to tell it to the judge as he places you under arrest. (I've never had more than a speeding ticket, but I've worked with law enforcement)

Because of the worldwide Islamic madness our laws are tightening and the Posse Commitatus laws are pretty much just ink on paper.

We just happpen to be living through what many historians believe is one of those periods of truly historic demarcation between one way of how things were done and how they will be done.

I guess we just deal with it.  

By Blogger Habu1, at Sat Mar 24, 01:15:00 PM:

..... oh yes, and the new way has nothing to do with a widening of our personal freedoms.

That screw has a special built in "can't be unscrewed" feature.  

By Blogger The Leading Wedge, at Sat Mar 24, 07:33:00 PM:

It strikes me that this discussion is about shooting the messenger. The IRS is a bureaucratic organization tasked to implement the tax laws of the U.S. government. As indicated in my previous comment, my experience is that, in the past few years, they are trying to do this in a way that best suits the taxpayers who are also paying their salaries.

The IRS only implements the rules. As TH points out, it is the politicians that made the rules. It is an important distinction that we do not attack the IRS but save our energies and votes to attack the politicians who make the rules. Otherwise, I fear we are falling into one of the traps the politicians have knowingly set for us.

If you doubt this, then study the AMT and its ramifications. Ask the IRS. I have personally been on the phone with IRS personnel who have sympathized with me and admitted that it is an unfair and outrageous tax.  

By Blogger ScurvyOaks, at Sat Mar 24, 10:10:00 PM:

Purple Avenger, your comment annoys me considerably for two reasons:

1. Why be a scofflaw? You're legally required not only to pay the tax, but to file the returns. Why make the government spend resources on you (which resources I help to pay for) instead of on somebody else, from whom they are more likely to collect a tax deficiency?

2. If you really think your file is flagged to be avoided in the future -- apparently because you're so smart -- you are sadly mistaken. It simply doesn't work that way. I hope they audit your ass off next year. Bet they'd find something.

(Btw, I'm a tax lawyer in private practice and have never worked for the government.)  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Sun Mar 25, 06:19:00 AM:

I hope they audit your ass off next year. Bet they'd find something.

Indeed they would!!! They'd find I'm actually owned roughly another $5,000 in refunds over the last 5 years (but they only payoff on the last 3 years when it comes to refunds).

Curious that. When YOU are owed money back they're only willing to go back 3 years. If someone owes them money, then they'll go back much further.

IAC, you fail to see my point. I do this because time and peace of mind are worth money to me. I'm willing to OVERPAY (something you failed to recognize as well) a little for the luxury of ignoring them for extended periods.

BTW, there is no "crime" involved when you owe them nothing.  

By Blogger Purple Avenger, at Sun Mar 25, 06:37:00 AM:

BTW, I just did a quick calculation of what refund I'd be owed for 06' -- ~$1,200 (without applying any fancy or obscure deductions). I'm sure that could be boosted up around $2,000 if I spent an hour or two looking for deductions.  

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