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The parallel universe of the IRS

June 24, 2014

Sometimes memories are triggered by the oddest things. While watching a re-broadcast of  IRS head honcho John Koskinen’s exchanges with various members of various Congressional committees, I was struck by the absolute contempt on his face for the people and the process in which he was participating. Instantly I was transported back to 1968.

By way of background, I had received a letter (yes, one of THOSE letters) stating that some of my deductions were being disallowed and I now owed the IRS some $300. When you’re making $1.35 an hour, that’s a lot of money, and I didn’t have it.

After a few minutes of sheer panic (OMG, they are going to arrest me, take everything I own, blah, blah, blah) I actually read the whole letter and realized that the disallowed deductions must be for someone else, because they concerned some sort of mortgage interest. I didn’t own any real estate. WHEW! It was just a mistake. No problem, once I show them my actual return.

Stupid me. I proceeded to gather up my copy of my tax return and the letter and trotted down to the local IRS office (They did used to have them then). The lady at the desk told me that I would have to file a written appeal before she could help me. She did at least provide me with the publication dealing with appealing a tax levy.

To make a long story shorter, I then fell into the black hole that is the IRS bureaucracy. My letter was acknowledged with one from them that said essentially that if I didn’t own any real estate I shouldn’t be claiming any deductions for it so now they were going to review my returns for the past four years.

It took almost a year to get it sorted out. At the very end I did get my face-to-face with the local IRS agent. When I said that I was glad the IRS had finally realized that it had made a mistake this man looked at me with that same condescending, arrogant, supercilious look and said something like this:  “The IRS doesn’t make mistakes. You obviously did not file your return correctly and now we have all spent a lot of the taxpayer’s money to rectify your errors. Please have a professional do your returns in the future”.

Maybe the mistake was mine. I assumed I was dealing with rational human beings who could see that they had transposed two numbers and sent the letter to the wrong person. Wrong!

The IRS may be a necessary evil. Obviously we all have to pay taxes and as long as we do that through the current convoluted and arcane rules, they will probably continue to exist.  But approaching their management with the idea that they believe they operate under the same set of rules as everything else in the universe is starting out under the wrong premise.

The IRS operates on the assumption that you are guilty until proven innocent. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Treating the agency and whatever talking head is in charge at the moment from the same stance with a special prosecutor might be the only way to ever clear up the targeting scandal and any as yet-to-be-known entanglements arising from that debacle. 

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