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We all hate taxes

Updated on October 29, 2015
Maybe to calm people down, April 15th should be a "Tax Free" day.
Maybe to calm people down, April 15th should be a "Tax Free" day.

The truly evil empire

While doing research for a book, I learned a great deal about the IRS and taxes. I even ran some "Recon Missions" by driving around the IRS building in Austin, Texas. Back then, I think we were a little naive about these things (don't do this yourself today. Really). One of the biggest discoveries in all this research was that the IRS is pretty much a mess. The folks that we trust to fairly and honestly collect our taxes are, well, human. They do a lot of careless, reckless and unprofessional things in carrying out their jobs. This is why it just makes sense to consider them the evil bad guys in books, stories and tales told in pubs.

Examples of IRS problems

The IRS has a storied history. Sadly, most of those stories have unhappy endings. Below are some of the amazing stories (a polite term to call their actions) that we've heard about the IRS over time.


From Reader's Digest, June 1995

  • There's the story of a 17-year old girl who made a few thousand dollars working in a retirement home. Her uncle (legal guardian) sent in the taxes she owed. The IRS claimed she didn't pay and threatened to garnish her wages as well as slap a lien on her property. After about a year it all got straightened out.
  • In an audit in 1992, it was reported that the IRS had over $200 billion in errors on its books; it couldn't clarify how it spent its $7.2 billion in appropriations; it didn't have clear records of over $800 million in seized assets; nor could it nab the 10 million businesses and people that didn't file their taxes.
  • In 1988 the GAO found that the IRS had typed in the wrong address for over 450,000 people.
  • Because of the above, countless people (who notified the IRS of moves) were charged with not paying their taxes. Many of these people ended up getting audited.

From AP reports in 1997

  • IRS agents admit that there is often retaliation against whistleblowers--which was why the agents in the report were disguised.
  • One agent claimed that the IRS often unfairly targeted poor people, largely just to set examples because they didn't collect much in the way of taxes from them.
  • Several agents claimed that branches were ranked according to how much they brought in, which would lead to adverse collection practices.
  • One agent told of a 10-year-old boy who had his savings account impounded.

Some Tax Resolution Options

From 1991 Austin American Statesman

  • Willie Nelson had most of his property seized to pay back taxes, but they also attempted to seize a country club purchased by a friend from Nelson. The friend was UT football coach Darrell Royal (the IRS did say they'd pay back Royal).

From 1995 Baltimore Sun

  • It's reported that the IRS needlessly launched investigations into over 30 veteran organizations. Often times they were investigated because they spent money to send widows of veterans to various activities.

From a Senate Finance Committee hearing, 1997

  • From 1980 to 1995, IRS criminal enforcement underwent a dramatic shift in emphasis. In 1980, more than three quarters of all IRS prosecutions were aimed at individuals accused of traditional tax crimes like failure to file or the filing of a fraudulent return. By 1995, less than half of IRS prosecutions involved traditional tax violations, with crimes like money laundering, drugs and currency violations taking their place. From 1988 to 1995, civil audit rates for individual non-business taxpayers with incomes over $100,000 declined by a factor of four. (in other words, they were now targeting poorer citizens)

From "The Week" October 2014

  • An Iowa woman named Carole Hinders saw her bank balance go from $33,000 to zero thanks to IRS confiscation. Hinders, who owns a small, cash-only Mexican restaurant, has not been charged with any crime and is not suspected of tax fraud. The IRS says they took her money solely because she deposited too little of it at a time, and the agency claims she did so to avoid the required reporting of any bank transaction over $10,000. She says she just thought it was helpful to save the bank paperwork.

Mark Twain

"I shall never use profanity except in discussing house rent and taxes"

IRS Opinions

What do you think about the Internal Revenue Service?

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Who signed the first federal income tax into law?
Who signed the first federal income tax into law?

Everyone is talking about taxes

Some famous quotes about taxes

Taxes, after all, are dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society-- Franklin D. Roosevelt

I'm proud to pay taxes in the United States; the only thing is, I could be just as proud for half the money-- Arthur Godfrey

The United States has a system of taxation by confession-- Hugo Black

The nation should have a tax system that looks like someone designed it on purpose-- William Simon

What at first was plunder assumed the softer name of revenue-- Thomas Paine

I hate paying taxes. But I love the civilization they give me-- Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization-- Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

The wages of sin are death, but by the time taxes are taken out, it's just sort of a tired feeling-- Paula Poundstone

This is a question too difficult for a mathematician. It should be asked of a philosopher (when asked about completing his income tax form)-- Albert Einstein

Friends and neighbors complain that taxes are indeed very heavy, and if those laid on by the government were the only ones we had to pay, we might the more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly-- Benjamin Franklin

It's getting so that children have to be educated to realize that ''Damn'' and ''Taxes" are two separate words-- Unknown Source

Conclusion

Face it, nobody likes to pay taxes. However, most people are willing to pay them because they realize they are necessary for any nation to survive—they just want to be sure that those taxes are fair. In fact, one recent study has found that some people might be willing to pay more if the taxes went for free education, free healthcare and better infrastructure (https://www.mainstreet.com/article/some-people-are-willing-to-pay-more-taxes-here-are-three-reasons-why). To have fairer taxes, we need to also make sure we have a good system to collect them. Right now, not many people would be willing to say we have that system in place.

There are many suggestions on how to fix the IRS, ranging from using a flat-rate tax to greater oversight of the agency, but because it is such a huge agency within the US, it may take some time (and a great deal of cooperation) to ever get some reform. Keep your fingers crossed that this happens within your lifetime.


How to fix the IRS

What do you think would be the best way to fix the IRS?

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