This is the third installment of “The IRS is Not a Bully” series, identifying taxpayer concerns and the difficult position in which Congress puts the IRS. Namely, applying ever increasing pressure to operate in ways its founders never intended, until it’s commonly misunderstood and misused; much like the schoolyard bully that seems more like a victim upon closer examination.
Recent events, including a scandal involving bonuses to IRS workers disciplined for misconduct, and struggles keeping up with the increasing number of fraud cases, have focused renewed attention on IRS practices. Without question, the IRS is an important part of our government. The vast majority of IRS employees are reasonable, honest and competent professionals, just doing what Congress dictates.
Once upon a time, the IRS had a reputation for being ethical, organized and ultimately fair – even when loathed. Now it’s often viewed as a collection agency focused primarily on revenue generation. With thousands of IRS employees, simple statistics tell us that a certain number of IRS staff will put personal gain or advancement ahead of fairness. But despite media reports to the contrary, the IRS itself is not a bully.
In his April WSJ article, “IRS Workers Disciplined for Misconduct Were Awarded Bonuses”, John D. McKinnon raised some excellent points while uncovering some real concerns. According to the Treasury Inspector General report, misconduct ranged from misuse of government travel cards and violation of official-conduct standards, to fraud and failure to pay taxes!
This is not a flattering view of any organization. Further, how can citizens know they’re only being asked to pay their fair share of taxes when reports undermine the very integrity of individuals tasked with communicating these messages? Many taxpayers not only complain about the messages, but the messengers, too. Even a mere specter of unfairness or lack of ethics on any part of the IRS can give the general public cause for concern, and possibly, to react in-kind.
Not surprisingly, there just happens to be a corresponding rise in tax return fraud cases too. So, is there more fraud due to the publicity of certain conduct by IRS employees, or is the conduct of certain IRS employees a result of increased tax return fraud? Either way, the IRS is overwhelmed by the millions of potentially fraudulent tax returns and identity theft cases.
The government desperately needs money and views the estimated $300 billion “tax gap” (the difference between taxes collected and what’s actually owed to the government) as rightfully theirs. Unfortunately, more aggressive collection policies only make millions of honest taxpayers being audited feel like they’re being unfairly bullied. But Congress keeps writing tax laws and selecting leaders that seem content to pile more responsibility onto the shoulders of the IRS to squeeze law abiding citizens for additional money – whether they owe it or not – acting a lot like, well, a bully taking lunch money.
Our CPA firm specializes in very complicated and international tax work; so, we have lots of experience helping many clients pay only the taxes owed. If a client wishes to pay less, we invite them to find another CPA firm. We take great pride in helping our clients sleep better at night knowing their proper tax obligations are met, and not a penny more. If they do have the misfortune of being selected for an IRS audit, we can help them with that, too, by having the right answers.
You don’t have to stand for the bully grabbing what it isn’t his to take. Particularly, if you have an expert tax professional that has your back. For more information, contact us at (510) 797-8661 or visit www.GROCO.com.