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Dear IRS: Don't Forget Who You Serve

April 15, 2014

It's too simplistic to say big government is the problem, yet there are too many factors contributing to the bureaucracy's inefficiency and scrutiny that you can't really point to any individual -- even if that individual is an IRS agent who admonishes you for your tax return being a few hundred dollars off. It is, after all, the government's job to keep track of every penny I earn and treat me like a thief if I don't report my income accurately. Forget the possibility that I made a mistake, forget giving the taxpayers who employ the IRS agents the benefit of the doubt. Rather, they expect you to show them greater respect than they show you, while they treat you like an uneducated ignoramus, an irresponsible anarchist supposedly. That's why I came to the IRS office for help with my taxes, right? Because I was trying to avoid paying. 

Being self-employed, I went to the local IRS office to set up an installment plan to pay my taxes. When I shared my tax returns, the agent said one of them was inaccurate. When I respectfully said the numbers should add up, the agent said "Are you saying I'm mistaken? Are you saying I'm wrong?' I said let me double check the numbers, and when I saw they were a bit off, I said 'It's such an insignificant amount, does it really matter?' He responded that he could not file the returns because they were inaccurate, tossing the forms around the desk -- saying he can't help me. I told him 'I'm just here to set up a payment plan, to pay you the money the law says I owe you. Can you please help me file them accurately so I can do that.' He said I was being very disrespectful to him, and my tone made it hard for him to work with me. 

The federal government governs Machiavellian-style, through instilling fear and trepidation into the hearts of the taxpayers that make its very existence possible. What other leverage would they have if they didn't do this? Making the people fear them is the only way they can get the people to listen to them. They've already lost the respect of the public, because respect has to be mutual and they apparently don't respect us. Yes, they are the people too, but they must forget that sometimes -- because too often I have seen the IRS consider tax laws to be more important than the interests of the public. Laws are there to guide us. When we follow them to the letter we become like the Pharisees who failed to see their purpose.

In the end, the agent wound up stamping and accepting my returns so I could set up a payment plan. In retrospect I really don't know why he got so upset with me. Maybe it's because I actually managed to be obedient, so there was no way for the IRS to penalize me further. Maybe he was impressed that someone my age going into business for himself was thinking ahead. The IRS has made filing for and paying for taxes so complicated that it seems to depend upon the taxpayers' inability to file correctly, so the taxpayers then has to pay the IRS more money through penalties and interest, or go to a professional who needs to be IRS certified. they have all bases covered so there's no way to pay your taxes outside of their scrutiny.

When a self-employed American actually proves to be a responsible citizen, they're perplexed. The fact that I even came to the IRS office to straighten out my taxes proves that I was willing to work with them. But this isn't counted in my favor, because they consider every interaction we have with them as a service to us. Sorry, I don't see how getting reprimanded by the IRS and setting up a payment plan counts as a service. I wasn't looking for trouble, but it was as if this agent was trying to provoke me -- and further demanding that I be more respectful when the burden of service is on him. If someone spoke to their employer the way this agent spoke to me they'd be fired. 

The IRS has forgotten what the "S" in  their name stands for. Americans, participate in your democracy, vote for representatives who will promote a culture of respect between private sector and public sector workers. Don't let this get any worse. The government has forgotten who they serve.  

Long live the Bundy Ranch!

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