Jim Kouri
Jackboot Politics: IRS hiring thousands of new workers
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By Jim Kouri
February 21, 2011

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -- C. S. Lewis (1898–1963)

In President Barack Obama's budget proposal, the Internal Revenue Service will receive an and additional $1.1 billion dollars — increasing that agency's budget to a whopping $13.3 billion. Part of the increase would be used to hire a reported 5,100 new employees responsible for supporting IRS tax-enforcement and collection programs, with 1,500 of them working on ObamaCare regulations and enforcement.

The "pie" is the annual $345 billion tax gap. This budget would indicate that the administration would like to see the IRS take a bigger bite from that pie.

Nationally-syndicated talk host Neal Boortz, a Libertarian, pointed out, "In the last two years, federal government spending has increased by 27%." Obama and his [Democrats] have said the best they can do is freeze spending." Bootrz responded

"Not a cut ... but a freeze? You know this is a crock and even I know it. There is plenty of room to cut spending ... huge cuts ... but Democrats have a constituency to bribe — votes to buy — and that takes money," said Boortz.

The Internal Revenue Service will see its largest expansion since withholding taxes were first enacted during WWII to enforce the glut of new tax mandates and penalties included in the Democrats' latest health care plan. Up to 1,500 new IRS personnel are expected to be hired to work exclusively on matters related to so-called ObamaCare regulations and fines.

"When most people think of health care reform they think of more doctors exams, not more IRS exams," said U.S. Congressman Kevin Brady, the top House Republican on the Joint Economic Committee. "Isn't the federal government already intruding enough into our lives? We need thousands of new doctors and nurses in America, not more IRS agents."

Scores of new federal mandates and fifteen different tax increases totaling $400 billion are imposed under the Democratic House bill. In addition to more complicated tax returns, families and small businesses will be forced to reveal further tax information to the IRS, provide proof of 'government approved' health care and submit detailed sales information to comply with new excise taxes.

Unfortunately, according to the Center for American Progress, the structure of the IRS' use of private agencies to collect "debts" encourages increased abuse of taxpayers. Under the current program, collectors are awarded as much as 25 cents of every dollar they collect, in addition to a $100 bonus for every account they close.

The Internal Revenue Service strategy of paying private debt collectors a 25 percent commission to collect unpaid tax debt originally met with bipartisan resistance from Congress. They claimed that the proposal jeopardized the rights and privacy of American taxpayers. Several organizations voiced their objections to the IRS proposal and have expressed their strong support for the consumer protection legislation Rep. Chris Van Hollen introduced: Citizens for Tax Justice, Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, National Consumer Law Center, National Consumers League.

The very nature of the program provides incentives for collectors to push the limits of legality to extract a little more revenue from their targets. As part of the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, Congress, fearing overly aggressive collection practices, explicitly prohibited the IRS from compensating its own collectors based on the amount of money they collect. If Congress believes that incentive-based pay will cause official IRS collectors to cross the line, why would they think private collectors would behave any differently?

IRS officials indicated that they are considering criteria that could trigger a go/no go decision, such as the amount of penalties collected from Americans unwilling or unable to purchase health care insurance and there are some indications of PCAs abusing taxpayers or misusing taxpayer data.

Paying private debt collectors on a commission basis is costly and threatens the rights and privacy of the American taxpayers. Congress must ensure, as this resolution seeks to do, that federal tax collection functions will not be handed over to private sector bounty hunters.

Critics of the private collection agency program say that, compared with private debt collectors, whose bad apples star in countless horror stories of debtor abuse and intimidation, the IRS's customer-service-based approach may start looking pretty good to taxpayers.

A recent Center for American Progress report noted that "19% of all complaints received by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2005 were related to debt collectors, up from 10.5% in 1999. The FTC received more complaints about debt collection in 2005 than about any other industry — 66,627, a 560% increase over the last six years." The report's writers claim this will likely occur with private agencies working on behalf of the IRS.

But taxpayer advocate Nina Olsen says that collecting tax revenue is the core job of the IRS, and it should continue to bear that responsibility while protecting taxpayer rights. IRS employees cost only 3 cents for every dollar they collect, making them many times more cost-effective than private collectors.

© Jim Kouri

 

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Jim Kouri

Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police... (more)

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