Frank Bernheisel: The View From Here
Frank Bernheisel
Frank Bernheisel
Posted 04.12.16
Just Outside Washington


Who really gets punished in the IRS game?

I just filed our US tax returns for 2015 using Turbotax, a whole week ahead of the deadline. Yahoo!

Fortunately, I did not have a question for the IRS because last year only 37 percent of those that called the IRS got through. If I had called and gotten through, my wait would have averaged 23 minutes. Snail mail is worse; the IRS backlog for letters waiting to be answered is currently over 900,000.

We know that the problem is all those lazy bureaucrats in Washington, right? Wrong!

The problem is our elected representatives. In the last six years they cut the IRS budget by 17 percent. This has resulted in 5,000 fewer agents who pursue tax cheats and resulted in $4 to $5 billion in uncollected taxes last year according to John Koskinen, the IRS Commissioner. Why would our Representatives, who came into office in the last six years claiming they could govern, cripple the IRS?

To quote Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R. Fla), chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee: "We deliberately lowered the IRS funding to a level to make them think twice about what they were doing and why.".

Allow me to paraphrase: "We wanted to punish them." And what was IRS supposed to think twice about? It was supposed to think twice about scrutinizing the applications for tax-free status of social welfare groups that were politically active. Political activity is not allowed under the law. It seems that the most scrutinized were conservative "social welfare groups" that support causes and candidate dear to the heart of Rep. Crenshaw and his buddies.

Who really gets punished in this game?

First, there are those whose refund is stolen by hackers that IRS doesn't have staff to catch. Then, there is Joe and Joanne Average Taxpayer; who cannot get service from the IRS and who know that the cheaters are not being caught. Can we blame Joe and Joanne Average Taxpayer if they are mad? Could we blame them if they start to cheat as well?