Anger towards the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is nothing new, however, it never ceases to amaze me how so many people forget one critical element regarding the IRS. That critical element – the IRS does nothing that isn’t funded or directed by Congress.
I would never argue that the IRS hasn’t done things that are questionable in terms of how they collect money and the rampant confusion in explaining the federal income tax code, which is tens of thousands of pages long and growing. BUT, keep one thing in mind – all that code that the IRS uses to do its job is passed and sanctioned by Congress.
So if you really want to change the IRS you have to get involved in changing Congress. Don’t vote? Well, you and about 50% of the voting-eligible population in the US are in the same boat and quite frankly those of you who don’t vote are the ones who contribute greatly to this problem. Politicians depend on a majority of the citizens of this fine country being turned off from voting. It’s much easier for them to concentrate on their base constituency that they know supports their ideas than to have to persuade people that don’t vote in the first place.
So, what does this have to do with the IRS? Plenty. As politicians make promises to those who helped them win their office, they have to be able to fund the causes and projects those same people want to see funded or the politicians won’t have the same support when they run for office the next time. You don’t have to look any further than the debate on the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) issue to see this in action.
Just about everyone agrees that the AMT is no longer serving the purpose for which is was first passed and that it is now being applied unfairly, but nobody has truly stepped up to resolve the negative effects of the AMT. The reason? With all the promised tax cuts the AMT brings in revenue that Congress knows it can’t quickly replace. The only other promise of collecting large sums of tax revenue is the Tax Gap – a buzz word in Congress that has politicians salivating. See my article on this at http://www.helium.com/knowledge/151721-understanding-means.
Now some of these projects that politicians fight for are actually good for society. It’s good for society to have our roads maintained, to educate our children and to feed the poor. Unfortunately, we’re seeing the support to do these types of projects eroding. So, where is the money going? Well the IRS publishes statistics on its collection efforts and so do other government agencies. It’s actually one of the things that Congress did right – making government agencies accountable to the American public. A good place to start in educating yourself on these types of reports is www.usa.gov.
However, if you don’t want to take the federal governments word for anything then start with www.nationalpriorites.org. I actually believe that everyone should always look at multiple sources for their information to develop an informed thought process. At least, this is what I try to do. In fact, I believe in taking a balanced approach t to the subject of paying taxes.
Like many citizens I believe that Congress needs to be more responsible in collecting and spending our money. But, I also believe that taxes are necessary for a healthy and functional society, especially with regards to education and taking care of our children and our elderly. I too object to some of the things our money is spent on but that’s why I vote. I believe that the best change in a society comes from knowledge and exercising the wonderful right to vote to express the results of that knowledge. But if you are determined to fight the IRS you’d better do your homework. As I’ve pointed out to people in the past, the IRS is the only agency that could send Al Capone to jail. Fast forward to today and we have the actor Wesley Snipes facing three years in prison for listening to the wrong tax advice.
So where should you turn to educate yourself on the best way to communicate with the IRS? First, there is the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate, established in 1988 along with the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. It’s predecessor, the Taxpayer Ombudsman was created in 1979. The Taxpayer Advocacy Service (TAS) has the purpose of advocating for the rights of the taxpayer. You can find more information on this at the IRS’s website at www.irs.gov.
The other place to educate oneself is through the US Tax Court. I like www.legalbitstream.com for researching the court cases involving disputes with the IRS. It’s an eye opener in terms of how the law governing the tax code is interpreted and enforced. The IRS doesn’t always win so this is a good resource for getting a benchmark for what is actually enforced.
I believe we have a lot of work to do in getting this country back on the road to being truly for the people who actually pay to support it, but anarchy isn’t the answer. Understanding our legal rights and influencing how our taxes are spent through voting and informed discussion will sustain us into the future far better than anything else. So will understanding the tax code at the federal, state and local levels so we can make more informed choices about those things we do that result in paying more income and other taxes. There are lots of legal ways to pay less taxes and we need to vote to make sure Congress keeps the balance between collecting the necessary taxes to keep our society strong and how much burden is placed on the lower income rungs of society. So, get out there and educate yourself and please vote!