Writings and observations

Congressional unwisdom

rainey BARRETT
RAINEY

 
Second
Thoughts

It’s always seemed to me, people who attempt to do their own taxes should first try to take out their own appendix. If they’re successful doing the latter, they should have no trouble doing the former. This year, the tax side of that self-challenge may be even riskier for honest filers.

Self-tax doers normally have a backup at the IRS – the ubiquitous phone call for help with questions. There’ll be some new issues this year because of some tax law changes in 2014 and the matter of how to deal with subsidies – if qualified – and other issues dealing with Obamacare that will likely raise some need for assistance. Lotsa luck!

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is the bearer of some really bad news. For instance, of the millions of people who annually call for filing help, less than half will get through to someone at the agency this tax season. Less than half! Of those that DO get to a live person on the other end, many will spend as long as an hour on hold. Those who want to try emails or some other electronic avenue for assistance will have no better luck. Forget it.

Remember that old term “sequester? Or “sequestration” which always reminds me of “castration” because the result is about the same. Well, your friends in your old do-nothing Congress have approved an IRS budget for 2015 which is the lowest since 2008! Yep. The outfit has to make do with less money than seven years ago.

And therein are those telephone waits and the emails going into a bottomless electronic pit and the six-out-of-ten callers who’ll never get someone on the phone. Oh, and a hiring freeze meaning the loss of some 4,000 more full-time employees by July. Since 2010, the IRS has lost about 17,000 employees while the tax load has increased and increased again.

Then, there’s the matter of audits. Yes, Virginia, there’ll be fewer audits for many of the same reasons. And while you may says that’s “good news” ‘cause you aren’t likely to have someone sniffing around your tax returns and checking your math, it also means more tax cheats and non-filers will get away with tax larceny. Since 2010, the Commissioner estimates the agency has not been able to collect about $6 billion owed because the enforcement division has 5,000 fewer employees than in 2008. He’s estimating you can add another $2 billion to that loss for 2015.

Now, a billion here and a billion there can really add up – especially during your old sequestration. But if you take more sheriff’s deputies off the trail, there’ll be more stagecoach holdups. ‘Twas always thus. And thus it still is.
And you just know the non-filers and tax cheaters know all this news, too.

If you’re expecting a refund, your wait will be longer. Especially if you’re a paper filer. Those using the old computer machine will see their refunds held up but only by a few days.

For years, Idaho’s excuse for a legislature did the same thing. “Get that damned old tax commission out of our business,” cried the folks at home. So the cretins came to Boise for years with avowed intent to cut, cut, cut the Commission budget. And they did, did, did. Then one legislative day, someone got them to understand basic math: fewer auditors to look for dollars meant fewer dollars for them to spend. On frivolous unconstitutional lawsuits and failed challenges to the federal government and the like.

So, the legislature relented just a bit by increasing the Commission’s staff of auditors by half a dozen or so. And voila!!! A year or two later, the old Commission was auditing more and improving the amount of taxes collected. It really worked! More hands doing the digging meant more tax dollars in the bucket.

Now, Idaho’s two U.S. Senators – Crapo and Risch – who were members of that old Idaho Legislature when the “more-auditors-means-more-income” lesson was learned, seem to have forgotten all that. They’ve become hardy supporters of “castra…” er, I mean “sequestration” with the I-R-S one of their favorite targets.

Remember, IRS Commissioner Koskinen is projecting a tax income loss – because of staff cuts – of about $8 billion. Imagine adding that “found money” to the nation’s education budget. Or, as our current Congress thinks, $8 billion more for Afghanistan bombs and missiles.

And the cherry on top for the IRS? Koskinen says, if it’s necessary keep his budget balanced, it may be necessary to close the agency for several days later this year. After tax season. Just lock the doors.

In the wise words of my favorite Russian comic: “What a contry!”

Yes, Spell Check. “Contry.”

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