David Reynolds: A taxing service
Over recent months I have received not one, but two computer driven letters from the IRS. While both have been resolved in my favor with no additional taxes owed, nonetheless, the “Big Brother” scare remains.
Allow me to take you inside the federal agency we most love to hate — the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS has computers. Its workers feed them. Both are capable of making mistakes. Soon there may be over 100,000 employees on the payroll, plus who knows how many computers. So much for “tight budgets.” As for those countless computers, they have big appetites. While busy digesting data, they don’t always have the time or capacity to talk to other computers. For example, the computers with data from employers do not always converse with the computers with data from employees. And sometimes the computers just get fed the wrong data by IRS workers. Losses have been known to be entered as gains.
This is what I found out after countless prompts (I selected only the ones in English) and being placed on hold twice, once for 23 minutes, the second time for 19. The bottom line from the friendly IRS agent at the other end of the telephone line: “Sorry, Mr. Reynolds, it was human error.”
Wow! I got the IRS to admit to a mistake! It was worth the wait.
Yes, my friends, the IRS is capable of making mistakes. Naturally, the IRS geeks prefer to call them “computer errors.” But we know better. And we now know that the IRS sends out scary letters before they check their own work. Yet the true-blue American taxpayers are told to do otherwise.
But, wait a minute. Why should this be a problem? Half of all working Americans do not file an income tax return and of those who do, more than half pass off their mess of papers to someone else. They just sign the return, pay a fee and then have a cold one.
Wake up, Reynolds, get with it. Have someone else do your taxes. Or stop paying them all together!
Okay, but let’s forget the second option. I believe that paying taxes is the price for having a nation able to defend itself and willing to provide basic needs for its citizens. While I will gladly (well, almost) pay the price, I need to know what it is. What is my share of the cost to provide for the common good? I can best get this answer by doing my own taxes.
Ask someone who pays a hired gun what they pay in taxes. They will most likely tell you their refund — which is on the average of $3,000 per household, a nice interest free loan to a rich uncle named Sam.
We think of the IRS as a dentist office. We don’t care what goes on as long as it is painless. And Internal Revenue makes its “service” as painless as possible through an invention that created big government: withholding. Just think how high our real estate and personal property taxes would go if localities had withholding.
So, what is the answer to stopping wasteful scary letters from the IRS? True story. A Congressman was once so frustrated with the unending growth of the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that he proposed that the number of USDA employees could not exceed the number of American farmers.
Naturally, his bill never went anywhere. Here’s another proposal that will go nowhere in Washington: Those who collect and prepare taxes can never exceed the total number of Americans who pay them. Sounds reasonable to me. That’s the problem — in spite of trend lines showing that one day the number of watch dogs will meet the number of dogs being watched.
China knows what is destroying our economy. That’s why the Chinese stopped doing each other’s laundry. But we are not worried that possibly one day half of us will be employed doing the taxes of the other half.
Column by David Reynolds