Internal Revenue Service Even Handed After All

Liberal commentators in all media and even on this blog have been eager to announce that the IRS was an equal opportunity offender between Left and Conservative groups and that, therefore, there is not much of a (new) scandal attached to the IRS.

Peggy Noonan resets the clock in her column of Wall Street Journal of 6/29/13. (All boldings below come from me.)

According to a House Ways and Means Committee source , only seven (7) cases of the 298 cases flagged by the IRS for extra scrutiny appear to represent progressive causes. Not one of the seven was subjected to harassment and abuse. Of the seven, only two were sent follow-up questionnaires after their application for tax-exempt status was received […] And all seven saw their applications approved […]

The “source” was not identified by name. Want to bet it does not exist?

[…] Russel George, the Treasury Inspector General whose audit broke open the scandal answered Rep. Sander Levin’s charge that the audit had ignored the targeting of progressives (by the IRS, bolding and comment mine) […]

The evidence showed conservative groups were singled out by the IRS, not liberal groups. While some progressive groups may have ended up on a BOLO list, the IRS did not target them. We did not find evidence that the criteria you (Rep. Levin), labeled “Progressive” were used by the IRS to select potential political cases during the 2010 to 2013 time frame we audited. One hundred per cent of the groups with “Tea Party,” “Patriot,” or “9/12″ in their names were given extra scrutiny.

Soon, very soon, the Internal Revenue Service will withdraw its apology for misdeeds it gave about two weeks ago precisely for persecuting, treating unfairly conservative-sounding groups. Right?

I wish the liberal deniers on this matter were cunning and twisted rather than something else. It’s easier to deal with conscious dishonesty than with the alternative. Many 1932 Germans were also not twisted, not consciously dishonest; they just would not see the evidence of their eyes.

The Real IRS Problem

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.