An Ill Windfall

Monday, June 30, 2014

If there's a gift horse you should look in the mouth, it's one coming from a "service" premised on the idea that it's okay to confiscate your money and call the process voluntary. That's what I did Saturday when I received an unexpected refund check from the IRS. Despite recent revelations about the way the IRS handles its own email records, I was still amazed at what I learned.

Here's a sample:

  • One tax preparer said that it was common for her clients to receive refunds due to mistakes by the IRS.  About five percent of her clients got unexpected refunds last year, and, "Eighty percent of the time, the checks were issued erroneously..."
  • Anyone who cashes such a check will be expected to repay it -- with penalties and interest. According to MSN Money, "The IRS shows no mercy just because it sent the money in the first place."
  • The agency warns against cashing such checks until you have received an explanation, but can take up to a year to send one, if it ever does. Consumer's Digest advises calling the agency and, if still in doubt, voiding the check and sending it back with an explanatory letter.
  • Consumer's Digest notes that "back-and-forth arguments over stiff penalties can get nasty, even if IRS made the error." A tax attorney interviewed for the article noted that only once in his sixteen years of practice had he ever seen a penalty waived.
  • Many of the errors pertain to IRS mistakes related to estimated tax payments -- and are followed by notifications of penalties for the "missed" payments.

The last article I cited puts it well: ""[T]he IRS and other agencies make mistakes on a level that would put any of us out of business." Great: So on top of having my money taken, and wasting time preparing taxes, I have to screw around tracking down someone else's mistake -- or else.

Any passer-by who feels the inclination to call me a something like a "whiner", or say something to the effect that this is all "part of being an adult" or some other such nonsense should check his premises. Being robbed and harassed on a regular basis is not the way things ought or have to be. I am astounded that so many people tolerate the existence of a band of legalized thieves who can plead incompetence while also brandishing the threat of financial hardship or jail time.

-- CAV


Anonymous said...

Hi Gus,

As I pointed out in an earlier comment, failure to keep and provide the IRS with required records can be a crime in and of itself. I think that the Lois Lerner Seven should be subjected to the same standards that the IRS subjects the rest of the citizenry to. I'd also throw in a little obstruction of justice along the way.

My brother, who works in the belly of the beast (DC), said that the GOP has a rare opportunity to do well by doing good. But he doubts that they have the guts to do it.

The House has the power of the purse. If ever there was an occasion for it's draconian use, the IRS scandal is that occasion.

The House should issue an ultimatum to the IRS. Cough up all of the emails by whatever means or we zero your budget. With the stipulation that, regardless of when this is resolved, there will be no back pay for work missed. This will put pressure on those who probably have those emails - after all, are we to assume that those emails went only to the 7 IRS thugs in question? - to come forward. That evidence should then be safeguarded until a GOP administration is in office when the prosecutions should commence.

If the Demos try to demonize the GOP for shutting down the gov't - which they will not have done as it will be the Demos who shut it down by stonewalling the IRS zero-budget - the GOP should go into full campaign mode and force the Demos to defend the indefensible; an unaccountable, out-of-control Federal agency that is breaking Federal law and violating the rights of the citizenry. And all this going into the '14 election.

But the GOP lacks the inclination, guts, or principles to make such a stand. And so, another golden opportunity to rein in the evils of overweening gov't will be pissed down the Capitol toilet.

c. andrew

Gus Van Horn said...

I like your proposal, but agree that neither it nor anything like it will happen any time soon.