According to a new national survey (okay, last week I asked 7 colleagues if they liked paying taxes and wished they could pay even more), it turns out that most Americans don’t don’t like taxes. But you knew it.
At the same time, most taxpayers pay the full amount year after year.
Many anti-taxers also understand why we have taxes. And what we get back for paying them. And the fact that most other Americans pay their fair share, on time. Keyword: MOST.
As with everything, there are exceptions. Many multi-billionaires are not afraid of taxes because they don’t have to pay them. And they don’t. Or if they do, they often don’t pay taxes on the same percentage of their income as the people who work for them – for 5-figure wages. Or you.
Thanks to a ProPublica exhibit from secret IRS files so far, many of the richest Americans pay little or nothing. For them (along with their accountants and lawyers) April 15 is just another day.
Tax-exempt billionaires owe their good fortune to a number of things. Including politicians, half of whom – at the House and Senate level – are also millionaires. Some made their fortune there before being elected to Congress. Others did so after taking office, despite their rather modest salaries (by Wall Street and high tech standards).
Over the years, Congress has helped millionaires, known to contribute to political campaigns, avoid taxes by gutting the IRS, while giving it more rights. Fewer agents, officers and auditors. Result? A backlog of money owed to Uncle Sam that cannot be recovered. At least not on time. When the backlog of action against unpaid taxes grows too large, politicians allow outside collectors – AKA outfits with a nastier approach than a dumping ground – to review uncollected taxes. Private companies get help and information from the IRS, down to addresses and other personal information. And also a healthy share of everything they collected because the intentionally understaffed IRS didn’t collect. At least two of these efforts failed when private collectors got out of hand or the public got fed up.
But there is a new effort to strengthen the IRS. Give it more funds, more resources, and most importantly, more people to do the job. If the politicians allow it. So what is the problem? We asked Duncan Giles, a 26-year IRS veteran. He is also a long-time member of the National Union of Treasury Employees (NTEU), which represents many IRS employees. Here is part of what he said:
I have worked for the IRS for over 26 years. Almost 20 of them have served as NTEU chairmen. I have watched with great concern over the past two decades that the IRS has literally been denied funding.
Has there been mismanagement over time? Absolutely. Should that be the reason we’re not getting funding? Absolutely not.
For as long as I can remember, the IRS has been the punching bag of the public and especially of Congress. It is understood and comes with the territory. But when you don’t staff enough for the organization that brings 95% or more of the funds the federal government gives it, it’s like shooting yourself in the foot with a howitzer. The staff we have now compared to when I started are downright pathetic. There is no way for us to do our job that the President, Congress and most importantly the tax-paying American public expect of us with this current endowment. I am very grateful to the President, some in Congress, NTEU President Tony Reardon and IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig for realizing this.
It’s not just staffing, but also employee retention that we get. Too often people retire as soon as they can. New recruits do not stay. People with a few years of experience don’t stick around. The main reason? There is too much work for too few people so you get the double whammy of employee burnout as well as some managers who, even though they know the workload is unmanageable, will continue to give work. to employees they know timely manner.
The employees I interact with day in and day out, whether they are in a bargaining unit or a non-bargaining unit, consistently want a good job for American taxpayers. The level of frustration has just increased over the years due to the lack of equipment, modern systems and the lack of personnel to do the job. The American people are frustrated, many in Congress are frustrated and trust me, everyone at the IRS, from the Commissioner to Decline, shares this.
Give us the funding and the time to train new people in a suitable work atmosphere (which we are currently negotiating) and the IRS can greatly reduce the tax gap.
Finally, the IRS doesn’t make tax laws, how much money we collect, or what laws should be followed. It’s Congress. When they rob us of funding and criticize us about what we do and how we do it, it’s ironic because they’ve caused a lot of the problem. -Duncan Giles, President, NTEU Chapter 49
Almost useless factoid
By Alazar Moges
At various times in history, the White House has been known as the “President’s Palace”, the “President’s House” and the “Executive Mansion”. President Theodore Roosevelt officially gave the White House its current name in 1901.
Source: White House