For decades the IRS have been at the forefront of being the most disliked government agency. 2013 saw the IRS being toppled from first place, the NSA claimed the top spot. That is not to say that the IRS did not have a few challenges, merely the the NSA managed to garner more bad publicity as a result of the Edward Snowden leaks.
That is not to say that that the IRS did not manage to generate some bad press for themselves.
I asked my friend, a thirty-three year veteran IRS agent Wane Vinson, to weigh in.
I started with the question: what do you make of the Ritzy conferences?
IRS is entitled to have nice places to hold their conferences, but as I remember, those events were shockingly extravagant. In the best of times, for necessary off-site meetings, the standard for any government agency should be nice—not luxurious. The USA is almost 17 trillion dollars in debt, and the scary thing is that the debt is going up like a rocket.
The really scary thing is that some people down in DC don’t know or care that America is about to go off a financial cliff. And so we have the IRS blowing our tax money on ritzy conferences. And some other agencies do it, too, no doubt..
Wayne is correct. It is easy to target government agencies. And the IRS is easy pickings. No-one likes paying taxes, but we all like having roads to drive on, a Police force to keep us safe at home and our armed forces to protect our borders and interests.
The second IRS scandal of 2013 involved the ‘supposed’ targeting of political groups seeking tax exempt status. To be honest, I do not understand why a group who’s only agenda is to raise money for political purposes should be exempt from taxes is beyond me. But the system is what it is. I can’t see Washington DC change the rules anytime soon. In this case the target was right wing organizations. Wayne had this to offer:
I think two top IRS officials resigned after this event, so I am sure IRS did delay the processing of applications for exempt status, from groups which appeared to be right wing. That was wrong. Government agencies should treat everyone the same.
The larger issue is whether congress should take another look at the Internal Revenue Code, and reconsider who should be tax exempt. Should political organizations, which tend to be big money dirt bags, be exempt? I think not. How about schools? Yes, they should definitely be tax exempt.
I’ve thought about the issue of religious organizations—churches—which are tax exempt, and I suppose they should be, as long as they stick to religion. The tax protesters have attempted to broaden the definition of what a church is or what it does, by treating ordinary income as contributions to a church and therefore not taxable.
From my IRS days, I remember a guy who owed income tax. He was a tax protester who barely cooperated when we first contacted him and later not at all. Finally, a revenue officer and I went to his house to seize his car. While we were knocking on his front door, he was running out the back door. We got a brief look at him, taking off down the alley in his car. Later, we found out he’d sold it. He never had a car in his name again, that we could find.
That was a real problem case. You can sometimes learn a lot from the income tax returns people file, so we pulled five or six of the last returns he’d filed. He had itemized deductions on all the returns and we found amazingly large contributions to a church. In fact, on one return he reported church contributions which exceeded his entire reported income for that year. What a guy!!
Although churches are tax exempt, if they run a for “profit business” that business is not tax exempt. Nor should it be.
Wayne Vinson was an IRS agent for 33 years and the author of a real thriller, Tax Collectors and Other Sinners, the story of a psycho killing tax collectors. It is available at amazon.com as an E-book or soft cover.