Montana Viewpoint: Tax cheats need to learn patriotism
Of all the horrors Republicans see in the Democrats’ grossly misnamed “Inflation Reduction Act,” the biggest bogeyman is that the Internal Revenue Service is going to get funding to hire new employees to boost their auditing efforts.
Tax auditing, in case you don’t know, is a multifaceted approach to taxpayer compliance; some involve simple individual returns, but the complexity skyrockets when it comes to corporate and millionaire’s returns.
Mike Crapo, a senator from Idaho, complains that this will boost the IRS auditing funding by 70%. Considering that IRS auditing efforts have declined by about 50% in the past 10 years, it sounds like we need them to have the help.
The IRS gets some 250 million tax returns annually and in 2019 audited less than one-half of one percent of them, down from about 1% in 2010. So now some say there will be revenue agents peeking in our windows.
This is all scare tactics. Their real objection is that tax auditors get money for the government without even raising taxes, just enforcing the law. The auditors are asking them to pay the taxes they already owe, but don’t pay because they have a real small chance of being caught, but that chance decreases when more auditors are hired.
The Treasury Department has directed that audits will not increase for taxpayers claiming under $400,000 a year in income.
So, the big fear about the IRS is that they will raise more money from tax cheats without having to increase taxes. The IRS figures that every buck spent on an auditor’s salary will return five bucks through tax audits, which sounds like a good deal until you realize that those five bucks (OK, four bucks after the salary cost) will go to the government.
And that, it seems, is the real issue; the government shouldn’t get the money because the goal, according to wealthy opinion maker Grover Norquist, is to cut government down to the size where we can either drown it in a bathtub or make it fit inside a uterus, your choice (so to speak).
No, the issue is not that there are people who lie and cheat and hire creative accountants to avoid paying what they should pay while patriotic honest Americans who don’t have the smarts or the lawyers, or, to speak plainly, the desire to cheat the American people do pay their taxes.
The issue is apparently that we shouldn’t collect taxes from people and corporations especially if they cheat. This is kind of “law and order” turned on its head.
If the objection to the bill is that it will just collect more money to give to the government to do what the government is required to do by law—laws often approved by those who object to the Inflation Reduction Act—just say so instead of scaring the pants off honest taxpayers with tales of IRS agents looking at their bank accounts.
Which brings up another point; in an era where Americans are falling all over each other to spill their innermost secrets on the internet, let alone give Google more information about themselves than the government has or wants, the question I have is why is it OK for big business to spy on Americans but not OK for our own government to get information legally?
I happen to be one of those oddities that likes most things that government does, like feed the poor, because private charity can’t even though it tries its best; like enable the development of a vaccine for Covid in record time (thanks to President Trump); like develop a rescue plan from the Covid disaster (Trump again, then Biden); like deliver mail; like protect us from our foreign enemies; like on and on and on.
And yes, there are plenty of things I don’t like about government, especially when other people benefit from them and I don’t. But I am not willing to screw everybody out of their legitimate due just because I don’t like it, so I believe in a representative government that fulfills the needs of most of her citizens even if it is not perfect, because, as I used to hear a lot more than I do today, “We are all in this together.”
Jim Elliott served sixteen years in the Montana Legislature as a state representative and state senator. He lives on his ranch in Trout Creek