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Congress: Keep a Lid on the IRS

Updated on December 8, 2017
William F. Torpey profile image

Graduated NYU in 1964. Worked in NYC for 2 years in public relations then as reporter and editor before retiring from The Hour newspaper.

Home of the Dreaded IRS

IRS Building, Constitution Avenue, Washington, D.C.
IRS Building, Constitution Avenue, Washington, D.C.

Even in America, it's a little scary to say anything critical of the dreaded IRS, a federal agency commonly known as the Internal Revenue Service. But I've done it before and, as of yet, I'm still a free man, so (with fingers crossed) I'll try it again.

Some years ago, when a new director took over at the IRS, his letter (part of the 1040) invited taxpayers to write to him with their suggestions. I took advantage of the invitation.

With some trepidation, I asked the director: When is the IRS going to stop harassing little old ladies whose tax returns are not considered up to par? Believe it or not, my return was not audited that year; that's worth one cheer for the IRS.

Lawsuit Links IRS to Death

But the more things change the more they stay the same, as the cliche goes. This month a New Hampshire woman filed the first lawsuit against the IRS that blames the agency for a death, that of her spouse who committed suicide after enduring the agency's patented form of harassment.

Even after her husband's death, the IRS harassment did not stop as the agency filed claims against two life insurance policies.

"You killed my husband, and now you're coming after me?" the widow was quoted as saying.

The IRS, of course, says they've done nothing illegal in this case. A court will decide that issue.

My question is: Why does Congress allow the IRS to run amok, treading over taxpayers in a way that is sometimes reminiscent of the Gestapo?

An Unconstrained IRS

The real problem: Congress hands the IRS virtually unlimited powers to collect taxes and then shuts its bureaucratic eyes to the responsibility the legislation entails. Naturally, no politician would want to do anything to threaten the revenue Congress needs to balance the budget.

Sure, taxes must be collected -- and fairly! But, can the IRS use tactics that go far beyond what nongovernmental collectors can employ? The answer to that should be a resounding "No."

The IRS should be required to give immediate notice of delinquent taxes, not wait months or years for interest and penalties to pile up -- doubling, triipling or even quadrupling the tax bill.

And, more importantly, the agency should not be allowed to harass, cajole or threaten citizens.

The IRS may not like to admit it, but filing tax returns, for the average person, is not simple -- especially when there are unusual circumstances. For the elderly or handicapped, it's more difficult, even impossible.

Confusion Reigns

People who are delinquent on their taxes, the IRS must understand, do not always fall behind on purpose. They are not -- as the IRS is too quick to assume -- tax cheats. Confusion about returns, or the inability to pay, is not the same as tax evasion, or even tax avoidance.

We need a kinder, gentler IRS -- or, as many propose, no IRS at all!

If we decide to keep the agency, Congress should keep a much closer eye on it and not let it pick on those who are powerless to fight back.

If you don't hear from me for an extended period of time, check with the IRS. I'm sure they'll be able to tell you where I am.

I wrote this column as a "My View" for The Hour newspaper of Norwalk, Conn., on Aug. 16, 1997. I now write my views on a wide variety of topics on HubPages.

Should Congress Increase Its Oversight Over the Internal Revenue Service?

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An Ex-IRS Guy "Tells It Like It Is.'


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    • profile image

      seashell 6 years ago

      Yeah, they smell a dollar and they are on you. They do

      not care if they ruin your life. America, the home of

      the taxed and re-taxed!

      They are a machine with no care or concern for life!!!

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 8 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      They run amok, AndyBaker, because they can. Someday, I hope, we'll get a Congress that rein them in!

    • AndyBaker profile image

      AndyBaker 8 years ago from UK

      They are crooks. Plain and simple.

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 9 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I don't want to shock you, Bob, but I pretty much agree with you on this one!

    • profile image

      Bob 9 years ago

      Bill.The reason Congress lets the IRS run wild is simple. Congress want money to spend on their pet projects and this is how Congress ( government ) gets money. This also puts the publics anger towards the IRS and not them.