It’s heartening to see distrust and resentment of the IRS building up in the wake of the targeting of tea party groups and such. But let’s not overlook the daily predations of the IRS, small and large, which add up to a mountain of costs borne by citizens – not just monetary costs but also mental anguish and occasionally violent confrontations.
Case in point: your humble servant. This morning I received a notice demanding $8,900 in back taxes. Needless to say that ruined my day even though it took me only five minutes to realize that they made a mistake and I owe them nothing. I have high hopes that this will be resolved quickly but you never know. I mentioned my plight to a friend this morning and he chuckled. He once had a $1,400 claim which he fought for ten years until finally he got to the right person at the IRS who found their mistake in five minutes. Did he get an apology? Restitution or compensation of any kind? Of course not.
The complexity of the tax code is often cited as a significant drag on the economy, in terms of time spent gathering information and preparing returns, money paid to tax preparers and tax attorneys, etc. But there are lots of other bad effects. No one understands the tax code in its entirety and most IRS agents understand little of it — or worse, what they often think they understand is wrong. Nor do taxpayers understand it. This opens the door for errors, misunderstanding, cheating and consequent confrontations, anguish, time and money wasted, and sometimes violence.
If we have to have an income tax (which I’m unwilling to concede), let’s have a simple flat tax and do away with, if not the inherent coercion of any tax, at least the enormous expense and anguish that are part and parcel of the current insane system.