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S.O.S. For The I.R.S.

Trouble at the I.R.S. Does the nation’s tax-collector still have what it takes to do the job?

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, to testify before the House Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee hearing focusing on a variety of issues facing the IRS. (AP)

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner John Koskinen arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, to testify before the House Ways and Means Oversight subcommittee hearing focusing on a variety of issues facing the IRS. (AP)

Nobody loves the I.R.S.  The Internal Revenue Service.  The nation’s tax collector.  The heat was especially high last year when the I.R.S. was accused of going after political non-profits – conservative, then liberal, too.  But on the core function of the I.R.S., most would agree that if you’re going to have tax collection we need it done well.  Need an I.R.S. that’s efficient, competent, responsive, on top of fraud.  And some big reports are saying that we do not.  That fraud is rife, tax collections shrinking.  That the I.R.S. can’t keep up and may “fail at its mission.”  This hour On Point:  does the nation’s tax-collector still have what it takes to do the job?

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Michael Kranish, deputy chief of the Boston Globe’s Washington bureau. Co-author of “John F. Kerry: The Boston Globe Biography” and “The Real Romney.” Author of “Flight From Monticello: Thomas Jefferson At War.” (@GlobeKranish)

Nina Olson, National Taxpayer Advocate. (@YourVoiceAtIRS)

From Tom’s Reading List

Boston Globe: IRS is America’s feared and failing agency — “Is the IRS, which collects 90 percent of the nation’s revenue, up to the basics of its job? The surprising answer is that it often is not. A Globe review of dozens of government reports and audits, as well as interviews with key officials, found a series of fundamental problems:”

Kansas City Star: IRS is not yet prepared for expected deluge of calls about health care reform, commissioner says — “Cost-cutting at the IRS has reduced its workforce by 10,000 in the last four years, Koskinen said. It employs about 90,000 and operates on an $11 billion budget. Still, resources are so tight that Koskinen apologized in advance for callers who won’t be able to reach the agency by phone this tax season. Last year, 18 million phone calls to the tax agency ‘didn’t get answered at all,’ he said.”

Forbes: IRS Processing Returns, Refunds Faster Than In 2013 — “Processed returns far issued outpace last year’s numbers, despite an abbreviated filing season and a slight dip in the number of returns actually received. Some of the strong showing could be attributable to e-filing returns which tend to have fewer filing and processing errors: according to the IRS, nearly 95% of the returns received to date this filing season were filed electronically. Also good news for early filers? Refunds are up. “

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  • HonestDebate1

    So the IRS has hired thousands to enforce Obamacare and Sarah Hall Ingram, the person who oversaw the targeting at the IRS, is in charge of them. What could go wrong?

    • Bill_GKD

      Everyone who has spoken against the ACA can probably expect to get audited. Quick! Change your username again!

  • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

    So the party of personal responsibility, law and order, and physical responsibility wont correct the undermining of tax collection which is reducing government revenue and letting cheaters go free. How ironic!

    • hennorama

      MMTCW — Thank you for adding to the list of Typos/Freudian Slips/Autocorrections That Make Me Smile:

      physical vs. fiscal

      • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

        After 50 mg of Benadryl I do get a bit goofy and easily miss undesired auto corrections although that looks like one of my classic slips. Perhaps taking a course in roof preading would benefit me. ;^))

  • WorriedfortheCountry

    How disappointing that IRS insider, Lois Lerner was unavailable today.

    Perhaps once the shackles of the 5th amendment are lifted, she’ll have more than a ‘smidgen’ of a story to tell.

  • WorriedfortheCountry

    Incredible. 90K employees. $11B in spending. $62M in employee bonuses?

    I had no idea it was this bad. These metrics plus the compliance costs to economy indicated the need for massive Federal tax simplification. Unfortunately, with Obamacare in the IRS, we are going in the wrong direction.

  • John Cedar

    The IRS is soooo incompetent, they can’t even harass conservative groups without getting caught.
    With 47% not paying any taxes, seems like their job should be easier than ever.
    Sub the whole job out to Bechtel or Northrop.

    • TFRX

      Go away, troll.

      • John Cedar

        Request denied.

    • Don_B1

      The Bechtel that overran its budget on the Big Dig in Boston by maybe 50%?

      When it comes to the bottom line, the I.R.S. has had its budget cut (by Republican politicians – starve the beast?) to the point that it just does not have the resources to do what it is required to do.

      • WorriedfortheCountry

        Yet, they found the money to target Tea Party groups. Interesting how this works.

        • Don_B1

          It was not a matter of “finding money.”

          A branch of the I.R.S. was assigned the task of processing requests for tax-exempt status by various political groups claiming that their efforts were not excessive relative to their other activities.

          It was that branch’s efforts to minimize its work effort that led to choosing a shortcut that was not appropriate in its efforts to speed its work. And the effort was applied to ALL GROUPS, conservative AND liberal.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            “At the advice of my attorney, I exercise my rights of self-incrimination protection under the 5th amendment of the Constitution.”
            -Lois Lerner

          • Don_B1

            So what?

            What does that have to do with my statement of facts?

          • hennorama

            WftC — what’s wrong with someone using their rights afforded to them by the Constitution?

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Gee, why wouldn’t I want government employees — who work for us — to cooperate with an investigation?

            At a minimum — no cooperation == no pension.

          • Don_B1

            Then you would not support those in Gov. Chris Christie’s administration in their use of the Fifth Amendment?

          • hennorama

            WftC — your remarks make it appear that you advocate for picking and choosing which rights under the Constitution an individual should be protected by. That’s sad.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            I never suggested she isn’t entitled to her 5th amendment rights.

            However, I did suggest that if she doesn’t cooperate that she should forfeit her pension.

          • Don_B1

            That would be coercion to relinquish her Constitutional rights!

            Unless, of course, you would give her immunity from prosecution.

          • HonestDebate1

            There seems to be a consensus of confusion over the distinction between having the protection of the 5th and exercising it.

            I am protected by the first amendment to stand on the street with the Westboro bunch but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be a piece of crap if I did.

          • hennorama

            WftC — what was your purpose in quoting Ms. Lerner? Was it to point to her exercising her rights, or something else?

            She cooperated with the IG, and she tried to correct the issues when she was informed of them, well before any investigation was undertaken.

            If you don’t like Federal pension rules, then I again encourage you to lobby your Representative and Senators.

          • HonestDebate1

            Protected from what?

          • HonestDebate1

            “This is the most transparent administration in history” -President Obama

  • WorriedfortheCountry

    Federal employees owe $3.5B in back taxes. [And this is post tax scofflaw Tim Geitner ran the Treasury and IRS].

    http://www.wtop.com/41/3246430/Federal-employees-owe-35-billion-in-unpaid-taxes

  • WorriedfortheCountry

    Under their nose:

    “Vendors Doing Business with IRS Owe Nearly $600M in Back Taxes”
    #TaxSimplification

    http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2013/12/vendors-doing-business-irs-owe-nearly-600m-back-taxes/75665/

  • Ed75

    Interesting. The concern has been that the I.R.S. will now have all our health and financial records and will oppress us, in addition to the concern that they target conservative action groups by not giving them their tax-exempt status (until after the election). But the idea that they can’t handle all this new power and authority is a new idea.

    • lobstahbisque

      Hey, “if you’re doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear, right”?

      • Ed75

        Keep up the good work!

    • Don_B1

      When the actual statue language is used rather the the 1959 I.R.S. regulation supposedly implementing the statute, those groups DO NOT QUALIFY for tax-exempt status.

  • Ed75

    On another note, the movie ‘Son of God’ is coming out this week, highly recommended. A movie can’t handle all the details and has to adjust to the screen, but a must see for Christians, and for non-Christians an informative movie about what Christians believe, done by Catholics.

    • J__o__h__n

      Other than reminding us that churches don’t pay taxes, what does this have to do with this show?

      • WorriedfortheCountry

        “Render unto Caesar …”

      • Ed75

        Touché.

    • TFRX

      And, flagged.

      Stay on something resembling topic, eh?

      • HonestDebate1

        Lighten up.

        • TFRX

          You first, agnostic.

          Why is it someone else’s religion crammed down my throat is never someone else’s “lighten up” moment?

          • HonestDebate1

            Nobody is shoving anything down your throat. And I do agree about staying on topic but it’s not worth getting worked up over. And now looky here, we have 5 off topic comments.

            EDIT: Make that 6. You’ve tripled Ed.

          • TFRX

            “Nobody shoving anything down throats”?

            Bulls-t.

  • creaker

    IRS is another case of strangling the effectiveness of a government agency to do its job by strangling its funding. And, as always, being used to achieve political ends and cater to whoever has the best lobbyists.

    • WorriedfortheCountry

      Why does it always have to be more money? $11B annual budget?
      How about tax code simplification and shrinking the IRS mission.

      • creaker

        sounds good – but you’ll never get those who dodge taxes with teams of accountants and lawyers and lobbyists to accept being on a level playing floor with everyone else.

      • TFRX

        Compared to the phlanxes of tax lawyers that corporations hire to go into battle, an underfunded IRS does us no good.

        Nice context-free number, by the way.

      • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

        The economy and population are growing… Why would you not expect the government providing services and support to infrastructure not to grow?

        • TFRX

          Some people just want to kneecap the government’s “accounts receivable” dept.

      • hennorama

        WftC — the IRS is doing the job handed to them by Congress. If you want tax simplification, lobby your Representative and Senators.

        • WorriedfortheCountry

          I have but there are other lobbyist with deeper pockets that have bought their vote for the status quo. My reps are Fast Eddie Markey and Granny Warren.

          • TFRX

            Granny Warren?

            Keep things smart, classhole.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            I could have called her the Fake Indian from Oklahoma.

          • TFRX

            You’re taking the class out of classhole.

            Go flog your Foxshit somewhere else.

          • HonestDebate1

            Classy.

          • jpolock

            That’s a dandy slur. Who made you a long distance geneticist?
            I too have about 1/8 Cherokee blood from Tennessee. My Great Grandmother was %100…..but I look super white.
            Technically I could receive various benefits, inc. scholarships, but chose not to for this reason
            Learn some history and you’ll find btw that this is the result of a very purposeful attempt to “white out” and “civilize” the heathen natives

          • HonestDebate1

            Ms. Warren made the opposite choice as you and exploited it for all it was worth. And she lied to do it.

          • TFRX

            The classholes are rampant today.

          • HonestDebate1

            Where am I wrong?

          • Don_B1

            And if she had not listed it or some other minor point on a resume that you could find objectionable, then you would be all over that.

            In other words, once you do not like the work of someone, that person can do nothing right.

            But it was others, misreading the item on her resume that “exploited” it.

          • HonestDebate1

            It wasn’t minor. Please don’t tell me what I think.

          • Don_B1

            I didn’t say that you thought it was minor, I said it was minor, but of course you would trump anything up into a scandal if it appeared to be to your advantage in distracting an argument from the real issue. That you do all the time.

          • HonestDebate1

            Nice HTML but that’s not what I was talking about, this was:

            “In other words, once you do not like the work of someone, that person can do nothing right.”

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            I too have high cheekbones but I didn’t use that for advancement.

          • hennorama

            WftC — then your argument is with those deep-pocketed lobbyists who love the complexity, and not the IRS.

    • MrNutso

      Not sure about the money aspect, but the IRS needs to be split up so it is only dealing with tax collection, delinquency and cheating. All other functions related to the political side need to be moved to another or separate agency.

  • Charles

    I have no doubt that there are some questionable individuals inside the IRS, just as in any organization of its size. I expect, however, that most employees are well-meaning folks that are simply overwhelmed with the scope of the IRS’ mission.

    I have no problem with reducing the role of the IRS, but that would start with Congress and we seem to be heading in the opposite direction.

  • TFRX

    The heat was especially high last year when the I.R.S. was accused of
    going after political non-profits – conservative, then liberal, too.

    Hey, Tom, how about rewriting that based on how those accusations played out? It wasn’t everything Fox News said.

  • WorriedfortheCountry

    Bureaucratic incompetence supreme. And the D’s want the bureaucracy to run national healthcare and 17% of the economy. What could possibly go wrong?

    • Don_B1

      With Republicans in charge, it is clear that almost anything can go wrong!

      It is clear that Tea/Republicans are leading the efforts to starve the I.R.S. to hamstring its efforts to collect the revenue that Congress has authorized, particularly due to the complex rules it has for commercial and wealthy tax payers.

      • HonestDebate1

        Democrats are in charge.

        • Don_B1

          Not for forcing the big funding cuts.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            When was that? Dems have controlled the senate for 7+ years and the WH for 5+ years.

          • Don_B1

            The Republicans have cut the I.R.S. for ever, and when the Democrats are in the majority, but with the Tea/Republicans in control of the House, to get a compromise budget, one of the things that the Democrats could accept, without facing a lot of heat, was cutting the I.R.S. But it was not from a desire to cut the I.R.S., but a need to get a budget, instead of just the debt ceiling agreement of 2011, for which they were taking a lot of grief.

            So at the heart of these cuts lie Republican ideology.

  • James

    anyone who has a 4 year degree in accounting is a qualified to prepare taxes.

    • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

      Perhaps, but not corporate taxes, nor are they qualified to review them for cheating.

      • James

        True, but if you are a major corporation, you aren’t going to get your taxes done by the guy down the street, your going to go to an established accounting firm that pays top dollar in the industry.

    • HonestDebate1

      I would like to see it simplified to the point where anyone with a high school diploma would be qualified to prepare taxes and see no reason why that can’t happen.

    • hennorama

      James — tax return preparation is a specialty.

      As such, specialized training is required; it does not require an accounting degree. Not everyone with an accounting degree is either qualified, inclined, or properly trained to prepare income and other tax returns.

      Think about it this way: would you want a physician in general practice to perform brain surgery?

  • Jim

    The people who do not like the IRS are the same people who do not like to pay taxes and would do anything to justify dodging paying its fair share. They dearly feel they are entitled to do so. Unfortunately both parties do not like this agency even though this entity is the backbone of our government and economy. Be a proud American and pay your fair share.

  • TFRX

    “Who would be against having competent (licensed, regulated) tax preparers?”

    One guess, Tom. The same people who want to drown it in a bathtub. The same people who have no problem throwing shat all over governance because that’s the goal, not an error.

    • MrNutso

      I think it’s more plain ideology. They just think there’s too much government regulation in the abstract. Therefore, any more is bad.

  • jpolock

    Here’s a novel idea. Sic ‘em on Wall Street with a % bonus for all money they claw back from banksters, hedge funders, corps etc. That way they’d be able to attract and maintain quality talent, which would then be less apt to sell out to those very same interests (taking jobs at Goldman Saks etc.).
    Should pay for itself and underwrite much of the rest of the IRS.
    The 1% think it’s all just a game, which they are winning. I mean come on, who hasn’t known for decades about the offshoring of tax obligations, and the crazy Enron, Halliburton, Apple type accounting tricks in those economic powerhouse countries of Luxemburg, Switzerland, Bermuda, Ireland etc….
    A joke….

  • ThirdWayForward

    Why can’t we catch these identity theft scoundrels? These people should be identified and hunted down with drones — no mercy.

    What the Target identity thieves did to 40 million Americans deserves the worst we can dish out. I would be perfectly happy to see their heads on pikes, Roman style.

    It would seem that there would be extremely broad support for taking strong and harsh measures against these miscreants, who raise the level of fear and insecurity for every single citizen.

    They spend billions on the War on Drugs — why not expend similar efforts on the War on Fraud?

    We need a better national financial identification system.
    Too many institutions and organizations require Social Security numbers — it’s too porous a system.

    Beyond this, the tax system needs simplification.
    All income (including capital gains) should be taxed at the same rates.
    If the tax system were simpler, then there would be less need for tax preparers.

    • hennorama

      ThirdWayForward — the data breach at Target was much larger, with information of more than 110 million Target customers exposed.

      Your solution, however, is beyond extreme.

      • ThirdWayForward

        My opinion here is a gut feeling, not at all a rational proposal for a remedy. I think these data thieves are as bad as the worst terrorists — they have in essence mugged over 100 million people, and as a result almost no financial accounts are truly secure.

        Some measure of justice according to the golden rule of reciprocity would have it that they should suffer in proportion to the suffering they cause.

        • hennorama

          TWF — your visceral response is understandable. However, in general, financial crimes rarely result in significant corporal or other punishment, and certainly not assassination via UAV.

          • ThirdWayForward

            We should treat financial crimes like the mass-muggings that they are.

          • HonestDebate1

            I agree.

          • hennorama

            ThirdWayForward — thank you for your response.

            Your view is not unreasonable, but non-violent financial crimes are treated differently than “mugging” under current laws.

    • HonestDebate1

      The Obamacare website is a hacker’s dream. Expect occurrences of identity theft to explode.

  • majorml

    It is easy to hate taxes and easy to hate the IRS. George Washington recognized this while recognizing that the country cannot work without collecting taxes.

    The Republicans often complain that our government does not
    operate enough like a business. But then they cut the budget for the IRS, thereby saving $1billion while losing $8 billion in revenue. No successful business would do that.

    However, this is a win-win situation for the Republicans.Inadequate staffing resulted in the IRS using a form of profiling to target applicants for 501(c)(4) status, thus giving the Republicans fodder for their
    propaganda machine (even though liberal organizations were also targeted the same way). IRS funding cuts also allow the Republican business base to get away with paying less taxes. With these cuts Republicans can play the part of anti-tax, fiscal conservatives while increasing the national debt so that they can then push for more funding cuts to programs that they do not like. The cuts also prove to their base that they are constraining the IRS. The cuts make government less effective, thus feeding Republican-fueled anti-government sentiment and anti-IRS feelings. And, now the funding cuts will further serve Republican goals by creating real problems for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

    All of this reveals the Republicans’ preference for dogma
    over reason. It reveals their cynical disregard for what is best for this
    country in favor of what is best for them.

    • jpolock

      Absolutely! It’s a self fulfilling prophecy. A purposefully formulated downward spiral with self reinforcing feedback loops as you perfectly described

    • HonestDebate1

      A morbidly bloated vindictive government bureaucracy with access to everyone’s personal health records is not what is best for this country.

      • Ray in VT

        That would be bad. It’s a good thing that that isn’t what we currently, or are likely, to have.

        • HonestDebate1

          You are entitled to your lonely opinion.

          • Don_B1

            His opinion has more support than yours! (four to none, right now!)

          • Ray in VT

            I’m sure that it is a lonely opinion when compared to opinions given at TOP rallies or on right wing talk radio.

    • NrthOfTheBorder

      Great remarks majo.. For years I worked as a free-lance accountant helping people manage their business and taxes. I was astounded by how many entrepreneurs did everything they could to hide income and …let’s call it like it is, “cheat” on paying taxes.

      Sorry, to say, most were die-hard get-the-government-off-my-back-Republicans.

      Frankly, it was disgusting.

      I didn’t earn that much in comparison but I paid my taxes in full – and it irked me to see these guys with swimming pools of money constantly under report their income or engage in all manner of deception to avoid paying Uncle Sam.

      • Human2013

        They want 911 to respond to their homes, light traffic, street lights, potable running water, smooth roads, formidable bridges, public safety and don’t want to pay a dime.

        • NrthOfTheBorder

          Oh, and don’t forget a strong military – and the more they or friends or family can benefit from a gov’t or military contract, the better.

  • MrNutso

    I wonder how many calls could be avoided with clearer instructions and more simplified forms. There’s 76 numbered lines on Form 1040, and I only need to enter data on 19.

  • StilllHere

    The fraud seems concentrated at the IRS. I say they need to clean their own house before cleaning-out taxpayers.

    • NrthOfTheBorder

      So, if the agency were to “clean house” as you claim, then it’d be okay for them to after tax cheats?

  • BHA_in_Vermont

    The IRS can REALLY screw up, then blame the tax payer.
    Some years ago we started getting dunning notices, including threatening a lien on our house. Why? Because THEY put a number from one row on our tax form into the row above when they entered it in their computer and that calculated to us owing more money.

    Sadly, the dunning continued for several months after the person we contacted at the IRS figured out THEY had made the error. The collectors are (or hopefully by now WERE) not linked to the people who figure out the tax payer is not at fault and owes nothing more.

    • hennorama

      BHA_in_Vermont — your story is yet another example of the benefits of electronic filing of one’s tax returns.

      • BHA_in_Vermont

        Didn’t exist then, at least not without cost and I’ll be damned if I pay EXTRA to save the IRS money.

        • hennorama

          BHA_in_Vermont — that must have been quite some time ago.

          In any case, e-filing removes the issue of data entry errors that are involved when the IRS processes paper returns, which is what you experienced.

    • NrthOfTheBorder

      But your not saying all tax liens are in error are you….that exceptions make the rules?

      I’ve heard these kinds of complaints for decades from (some of) my clients who felt persecuted and hounded by the IRS. In the end, without exception, they ended up settling with them – why? Because they tried to cheat – tried forever to get away without paying their fair share.

      What baffled me was they were aghast at being caught – that if they could get away with it, that what they were doing wasn’t wrong…but just clever.

      • BHA_in_Vermont

        No but the total lack of coordination was appalling. We’d get a notice from the collectors, call the only number we had and they would say “yep, you are clean”. Talk people, TALK! :-)

        • NrthOfTheBorder

          I know. You wonder how many of these kinds of errors are the result of under-staffing and inadequate resources. The point I was trying to make is much is made of IRS heavy-handed tactics, but most is well-deserved.

  • Bob AndKaren Merrill

    Why not allow the private sector to manage tax collection with federal oversight? Compensation could be based on effectiveness.

    • TFRX

      I don’t trust that idea. DARE allows a PD to keep a portion of things they seize. Hasn’t worked well.

    • J__o__h__n

      Private debt collectors are not a solution. The industry has a very poor performance record including fraud and harassment. And the holder of the debt gets pennies on the dollar.

      • TFRX

        Private debt collectors: Like bounty hunters, except scarier.

        Why? People who’ve jumped bail know they’ve done something wrong. In comparison, witness the imbroglios mentioned this hour by folks who are trying to do right.

      • HonestDebate1

        That’s my problem with a national sales tax, it turns store clerks into tax collectors. Still, anything would be better than this. It’s out of control.

    • NrthOfTheBorder

      That might work. But, what will happen is that business will steered to friends and family of Congressmen and part of the profits will be returned to campaign chests. Along with the contributions will come quid pro quo arrangements that makes all of sick of what’s wrong with government.

      Why don’t we the people insist that agencies, like the IRS, work hard and diligently to collect all taxes according to law?

  • WorriedfortheCountry

    Why do they always go to money and staff shortage first?

    How does Mastercard and Visa handle identity fraud? Would MC and Visa send 200 different refunds to the same address? If the criminals are using publicly available information to target identity, then why doesn’t the IRS have the same information and why isn’t the checking automated. Perhaps, because they would just go to CGI or some other incompetent Federal contractor for the automation.

    • jpolock

      I’m pretty sure if Visa et al received a spike in fraud (Target?) they wouldn’t turn around and say “See it doesn’t work, we need to spend less on encryption and reduce surveillance staff!”
      That’s pretty much what the Republicans have done to the IRS

      • J__o__h__n

        Not that the credit card companies are interested in using the more secure technology that they do in Europe as that would cost money to set up.

        • jefe68

          Funny how people leave that out of the equation.

        • jpolock

          After Target though, its beginning to look like they will…however slowly….move in that direction.
          (I’m definitely getting a new card with those chips before I go back to Europe. Last time I went I got stuck at a tollbooth that wouldn’t accept my retarded American Visa card!)

    • jefe68

      You’re anti-government meme plays into the narrative that right has been screaming about for decades, government is the problem and is to big.

      Well, what today’s show outlined is the result of cuts, smaller government, and now you sit there and complain.
      Classic.

      • WorriedfortheCountry

        I heard a lot of problems due to incompetence today. It had nothing to do with money.

        That said, maybe some laws need to be changed like the one that forces refunds to be sent out before verification.

  • ThirdWayForward

    The whole conservative fabrication about the IRS selectively persecuting conservative groups really needs to be debunked during this program. Or at least raise the issue.

    Conservatives love to think that they are oppressed, to wallow in resentment. It’s part of their paranoid political mentality.

    The IRS needs to go back to the 1950′s legislation and prohibit all tax-exempt social welfare orgs from spending any money to influence political campaigns. We have other sorts of organizations and financial mechanisms for that.

    • HarryAnchorite

      If conservative complaints about IRS persecutions of Tea Party groups are false and debunkable, why then did Lois Lerner plead the Fifth Amendment? The administration appears to be more interested in sweeping this issue under the rug rather than debunking it.

      In any case, it is wholly inappropriate and outrageous in a democracy for an unelected and unresponsive set of bureaucrats at the IRS to set the rules for political discourse. This is surely a job for our elected representatives. It is this kind of overreach (as well as the Star Wars video, etc.) that bring the IRS into disrepute and produce efforts – prudent or not – to starve the beast.

      • hennorama

        HarryAnchorite — as I asked another member of the forum, what’s wrong with someone exercising the rights afforded to them under the Constitution?

        As to your second point — the IRS does not “set the rules for political discourse,” and the use of inappropriate criteria to select applications for review did not prohibit anyone’s political speech.

        Finally, do you think that everyone who applies for tax-exempt status should be granted it without review?

        • OnPointComments

          How naïve. Do you really believe that when the IRS decided it would use inappropriate criteria to select applications of conservative organizations for review that it didn’t have a detrimental effect on those organizations? Do you think when the IRS approves applications of liberal organizations but denies applications of conservative organizations that it doesn’t have an effect on political discourse? Why do you think that President Obama said that the IRS misconduct was inexcusable and wrong? Why is there a criminal investigation?

          • hennorama

            OPC — thank you for your response.

            No one was prohibited from political speech.

            Anyone whose political case is so important that they would form an organization to promote it would hardly be held back by not receiving a tax deduction or other Federally-provided advantage. A true believer would be yelling from the rooftops without regard to the niceties and efforts involved in forming various organizations, right?

            This is about money in politics, not prohibitions on political speech. The issue would be moot if the regulation allowing ANY political activities by tax-exempt/advantaged organizations was removed. Then everyone would be free to spend whatever they wish, without other taxpayers subsidizing their particular politics. What we have now are political organizations masquerading as so-called “social welfare” groups. Get rid of the regulation that allows this and we get rid of the associated problems.

          • OnPointComments

            I’ll repeat myself: how naïve. I notice you didn’t answer the questions.

            Using your own logic: money in politics doesn’t prohibit political speech either, so why the concern? Money in politics certainly doesn’t stop the true believer from yelling from the rooftops.

          • hennorama

            OPC — thank you for your response.

            Please note that my partial olfactory intoxification via the fragrances of jasmine, eugenia, rose and iris in the air here immunizes me from your negativity.

            Note too that since the post to which you originally replied made no reference to ” a detrimental effect,” I considered that and other of your questions to be rhetorical.

            Please allow me to attempt to answer your questions, as you seem to indicate they were not rhetorical:

            1. The premise is invalid, as I did not write about “a detrimental effect.”

            2. The premise is not accepted. Please provide evidence for your premise.

            3. Because that is how he felt about the issue.

            4. I don’t know.

            As to #4, surely you don’t mean to imply that if there is an investigation, it therefore means there is underlying wrongdoing. If that is your view, then you must also feel the same about various hate crime investigations, right?

            There is far too much money in U.S. politics, and far too much “dark money” funneled into political organizations masquerading as “social welfare” groups. There are also far too many political groups claiming tax-exempt status, such as Crossroads GPS and Organizing For [Action], to name just two.

            Those are my concerns. If someone wants to donate to political causes, identify themselves when they do so, and NOT ask for tax-exemptions, deductions, or other Federally-provided advantages, we would all be better off.

          • OnPointComments

            In my opinion, there is abundant evidence why someone may want to donate to a political cause anonymously: the government under the Obama administration has proven that it will retaliate against those who dissent.

            Leave it to the Democrats and liberals to come out against free speech. Has any of this political money changed your vote? If not, what are you worried about? As you said, no one (including the political money) is stopping those with opposing views from yelling their opinions from the rooftops.

          • Don_B1

            Where is the “proof” that this administration has retaliated against dissenters, except in the made-up stories of right-wing histrionics?

          • Ray in VT

            Well, they’re going after Dinesh D’Souza for being a conservative. I mean for breaking the law. They needed some cover to get him.

          • OnPointComments

            “I can’t help but think that politics have something to do with it. … It smacks of selective prosecution.” — Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz on the prosecution of Dinesh D’Souza

          • Ray in VT

            Everyone is entitled to an opinion. So, did he or did he not act in such a way that is in violation with the law? It seems that he did. I doubt, though, that a jury will buy a persecution defense.

          • HonestDebate1

            Gerald Walprin?

          • hennorama

            OPC — thank you for your opinions.

            I disagree with your first opinion about “retaliat[ion] against those who dissent.”

            I disagree as well with your opinion that “Democrats and liberals … come out against free speech.”

            It’s unlikely that any law or regulation will stop the flow of money influencing elections and the political, legislative, judicial, regulatory and other governmental processes, but there is no reason that taxpayers should subsidize and otherwise advantage those who wish to use their money to buy such influence.

            I’m not so arrogant that I would say that the power of advertising purchased with political funds has never influenced any of the votes I’ve cast in my lifetime. The pervasiveness and power of political advertising and other political messaging, both subtle and overt, are underestimated at one’s peril.

            Thanks again for your opinions.

          • Don_B1

            Your second question is totally incompetent ! Just because Rep. Darrell Issa structured his committee’s request to get an answer for only conservative groups does NOT mean that only conservative groups were “targeted,” and the ONLY group denied tax-exempt status was a LIBERAL group.

            But only the first reports, not the full story that has since come out, seem to have made an impression in your memory, or is it deliberate for you to make knowingly false arguments?

            I would expect you to apologize for repeating this calumny, but it seems conservatives never apologize for being wrong.

        • HarryAnchorite

          There is nothing wrong with exercising a constitutionally-guaranteed right. However, it is not unreasonable to suppose that if one is exercising the right against self incrimination, there must be some danger thereof, and something to hide. I do not share the opinion of Don B1 that Ms. Lerner’s concerns were purely technical.

          You may be technically correct that it is not the IRS that decides on tax-exempt statuses – apparently that is done higher up in the Treasury Dept. – but the concern still remains, about faceless bureaucrats setting themselves up as the gatekeepers of political discourse.

          I do not think everyone who applies for tax-exempt status deserves it, but if you paid any attention to the testimony of some of the Tea Party complainants, the lengths to which they were driven should bother you. You might also be concerned that the Justice Dept. decided that there was no criminal complaint without, so it was reported, interviewing any of them.

          • hennorama

            HarryAnchorite — thank you for your response.

            So your point about Ms. Lerner is one of supposition only, and you agree that she exercised her legal rights as allowed.

            The issues about tax-exempt and other Federally-advantaged organizations would be moot if the regulation allowing ANY political activities by “social welfare” groups was removed, and we simply followed the underlying law to the letter.

            The problems arose due to political groups trying to mask themselves as “social welfare” groups, and the IRS employees charged with trying to sort them out used an inappropriate shortcut in order to do so.

      • Don_B1

        Ms. Lerner did not plead the Fifth Amendment because of the “persecutions” but probably (I don’t think the exact problem has been reported) it has to do with actions she did or did not take to stop the shortcuts after initially ordering them stopped and then later finding out that they had not stopped.

        In other words, the pleading was due to something “technical,” not on the basic problem. The fact that none of the groups deserved the tax-exempt status under the law statute, only a perverted I.R.S. “regulation” of 1959, was probably unknown to her.

        • HonestDebate1

          If Obama was interested in getting to the bottom of it then he would have insisted she and everyone else involved cooperate fully.

          • Don_B1

            And violate the Constitution?

          • HonestDebate1

            I don’t see any violation of the Constitution by any stretch of the imagination.

          • Ray in VT

            If he insists upon her making statements, despite her having invoked her 5th Amendment right to remain silent, then isn’t he pressuring her to give up her rights. It seems like in the context of an investigation some sort of outside figure exerting such pressure would not be appropriate.

          • HonestDebate1

            Is it unconstitutional to pressure her to give up her rights?

            I disagree that Obama is an outside figure. And I don’t think it’s appropriate to not cooperate in such matters when the scope of the IRS is being dramatically expanded.

          • Don_B1

            In other words, she is guilty unless she can prove her innocence?

          • Ray in VT

            Of course he’s not an outside figure. He planned and set up this whole thing. Any good right-winger can tell ya that.

        • hennorama

          Don_B1 — in addition, Ms. Lerner was facing a group of grandstanding politiians looking for a scapegoat.

          Any competent legal advisor would advise Ms. Lerner to tell them, in effect, to “go pound sand.”

  • StilllHere

    In order to limit the potential for further fraud by the IRS, their ranks should be shrunk considerably. Tax simplification, such as a flat tax, would be a good start.

    • Ray in VT

      Yeah, a flat tax would be a great deal for top tier earners who would likely see large tax cuts, despite already having relatively historical rates. Lower earners would likely see increases, which they might not like after 30 years of stagnant wages. States with the flattest tax rates have shifted more obligations onto lower earners, who have ended up paying higher rates of total taxation than higher earners. It’s a right wing wet dream, but most people aren’t too likely to favor it when they figure out what it would mean for them.

      • Enuff_of_this

        Which states would those be?

        • Ray in VT

          http://www.itep.org/pdf/Poverty2013Report.pdf

          Page 3 lists the top states.

          • Enuff_of_this

            That’s great and all but we’re talking Federal taxation and the IRS. The article you provided lumps State, local, property and consumption taxes together in their percentage and that distorts what we’re discussing here. If you want to go that route, then you should be including EITC dollars in a family’s annual income which improves the financial position of a lot of recipients.

          • Ray in VT

            One of the main factors at the state level that lead to such outcomes is a reliance upon a flatter income taxes. Even if there was only one tax that everyone paid at the same rate, 10% off of the top for a family near the poverty line hurts a heck of a lot more than 10% for some financial executive or pro-baller.

          • Enuff_of_this

            But it’s still the same 10% across the board. The states are to blame for their own fiscal irresponsibility anyway.

          • Ray in VT

            And 10% off of the top for a poor family still hurts them more than it does for a wealthy family when it comes to whether or not one can cover the basic necessities of daily life.

          • Enuff_of_this

            But it’s still ten percent. No more free rides because that is what got us to where we are now

          • Ray in VT

            Your last point doesn’t really do anything to alter how heavy the tax burden falls upon those in lower tax brackets in states that have favored the approach of a flatter income tax, which has generally been paid for by pushing for more revenue via the sales tax. Such a point, though, can illustrate the effectiveness of that program.

          • Enuff_of_this

            Then perhaps we all should re-eveluate our expectations of government and downsize it and reel in it’s over-reach.

          • Ray in VT

            I would rather re-evaluate why it is that there is a push to move more of the tax burden in many states onto the poor, who are often paying more of their income in taxes than on the wealthy.

          • Enuff_of_this

            If everyone pays the same percentage the bite is equalized. Stop thinking in terms of dollars.

          • Ray in VT

            Except that one such bite will hurt the ability of one person to meet basic needs far more than another.

      • HonestDebate1

        In your opinion, what percentage of the population should pay no income tax at all?

        • Ray in VT

          An appropriate percentage, based upon the condition of the citizenry.

          • HonestDebate1

            With that dodge you missed a perfect opportunity to truthfully blame Bush for dramatically increasing the percentage of the poor who pay nothing. You’re slipping.

          • Ray in VT

            You’re slipping. Now you’re championing a true conservative for moving millions of people out of the ranks of makers and into the ranks of takers. He took their skin out of the game. What would Mitt Romney say?

          • HonestDebate1

            I think 47% is way too high. I blame Bush. I take it you think it was a good thing.

          • Ray in VT

            In light of wage stagnation and the struggles that many workers have faced over the past 30 years, I favor policies that aid low wage earners. Tie it to massive tax cuts for the wealthy and the blowing up the of the federal budget by going on a war-fueled spending orgy, then I didn’t think that they were good moves at the time or presently.

            So who should pay more? Retirees? College students who only work part time? The working poor, many of whom have seen an erosion of buying power over the years? Michele Bachmann says that my retired mother should pay taxes, even though she is living off of Social Security.

          • HonestDebate1

            That’s talking points. There was no massive tax cuts for the rich. There were tax cuts for every one especially the poor. After 4 years of war the deficit was $151B.

            Your questions are too vague to answer. A billionaire retiree should pay more than a destitute retiree. And on and on. When you start venturing into that kind of emotion based argument the issue is clouded. I think 47% of the country paying nothing is not sustainable, culturally destructive and far to high.

          • Ray in VT

            “There was no massive tax cuts for the rich”. Let’s set the grammatical issue aside here, and look at the facts. Under Clinton, the top income tax rate was 39.6%, and in 2003 it dropped to 35%. Capital gains rates also fell from about 21.19% to 16.05%. Now let us look at a couple of examples. A-Rod was in those years making basically $25 million from playing baseball (plus endorsement deals and other stuff on top of that). So, in 2000 he would have owned some $9,900,000 in income taxes, while several years later he paid 8,750,000. So, an income tax cut of 1.15 million isn’t a massive tax cut? It certainly is in my book. Considering that at least in recent years Mitt Romney’s income was largely capital gains income, then how much of a tax cut did he get? Not a massive one, I guess, especially compared with the couple of hundred that the working poor got. They’re the ones that really made out, I guess.

            “When you start venturing into that kind of emotion based argument the issue is clouded.” Ah, the old getting emotional meme. Michele Bachmann wants my elderly mother who is living on her Social Security to pay income taxes. How is that emotional. That is a real world application of a GOP official’s policy. I guess that some just don’t want people to think about who will get shafted by such proposals. We don’t want people to feel anything for such people.

          • HonestDebate1

            Thanks for the grammar tip but I already corrected it.

            Playing grammar cop always bites you back.

            “So, in 2000 he would have owned some $9,900,000 in income taxes, while several years later he paid 8,750,000.”

          • Ray in VT

            Seems like a pretty common problem that you have, like when referring to scientist or Democrat in the singular when the plural is appropriate,

          • HonestDebate1

            Or ending a sentence with a comma as above or writing owned instead of owed as above the above.

            I make mistakes all the time. Who cares?

          • Ray in VT

            Mistakes often do occur. I am talking about the sorts of repeated grammatical mistakes that form a distinct pattern.

          • HonestDebate1

            It’s well established that I’m an idiot so I’ll take your word for it. I glad you care. But the pattern I’ve always noticed is playing grammar cop always comes back and bites you in the butt.

            It’s funny what you don’t notice. I usually always use a small “d” in democrat or a small “l” in liberal while capitalizing Conservative. I go both ways on (R)republican. I always use a small “s” and quotes when referring to the “stimulus”. I’ve been sprinkling in the word (or not) “refudiate” for months now as an homage to my girl Sarah but no one has called me on it.

          • Ray in VT

            If you want to play grammar cop, then let’s go. I think that I can issue more tickets for you than you can for me.

            Non-standardized capitalization doesn’t really bother me, although one of my professors in college did inform me that all such occurrences were, in fact, grammatical mistakes.

            If you want to use a made up word mistakenly created by one of your favorite ding bats, then have at it. Her defense of what was a mistake that was easy enough to make just shows, to me, what a phony she is. Gotta celebrate it.

          • HonestDebate1

            I hate playing grammar cop, and do not want to play it. I’ll lose. As to your esteemed writing, I wouldn’t know. I don’t focus on it. I’m more concerned with what you write than how you write it. You may be surprised t your mistakes if someone critiqued the grammar in everything you wrote in an effort to distract. The bar is higher for me. I’m a target who is put under the microscope because of my views in this bastion and also because of my moniker. I accept that with glee. If someone wants to pick on my grammar or moniker then most of the time they have already lost the argument.

          • Ray in VT

            “If someone want to pick on my grammar or moniker then most of the time they have already lost the argument.” I do not think that that is the case.

          • HonestDebate1

            Now you’re nitpicky, At least give me 15 seconds after I post. I corrected it immediately. But again if you could make the case that nearly half the population should not be paying income tax then I don’t think you’d have to do the grammar thing. You don’t even need to make the case, you can’t even take a position of it.

            Now, remove that extra that. It’s redundant, superfluous and not good grammar.

          • Ray in VT

            I was not commenting upon your grammar. I was taking issue with the content of your statement.

            Well, considering that an overwhelming majority of people who fall into that 47% who don’t pay income taxes, although many of them certainly pay many other types of taxes that fund the government, are either elderly or who are at or below the poverty line, then build me a case for why they should. Why should retirees or people living in poverty pay income taxes. Why don’t we just go ahead and make their lives harder while the wealthy pay lower rates than under most of Reagan’s years.

            Who should pay more in taxes first? Retirees or a family of 4 making $20,000?

          • HonestDebate1

            Okay, sorry. I left the “s” off wants and that’s what got you started earlier.

            Do you think nearly half the country paying no income tax is appropriate? Take a stand. If you want to talk about who should pay more then that’s a different issue.

          • Ray in VT

            I don’t think that it is too much to ask for one to use proper grammar. Next thing you know you’ll be telling me you don’t know cursive.

            I think that I already answered that question, so kindly see my other comments. To be sure I think that the some 100,000 people making over 210k/year don’t belong in that group. There are likely others. Care to make the case that the elderly or the working poor should be paying more? They’re the bulk of that group. Of course, raising the minimum wage would bring a considerable number of people out of poverty and bring some number of them into the income tax paying column. Maybe that’s the route to go.

          • HonestDebate1

            You’re a crazyassed cracka’ if you think I don’t expect good grammar from adults, even black ones. Some don’t.

            And no, I’ve read your comments and you have not answered the very simple question. It’s a yes or no proposition. I give up. I can’t debate you if you can’t take a position.

          • Ray in VT

            Considering the language difficulties which afflict many south of the Mason-Dixon Line, it would seem that you have a lot of people to hate on, black as well as white, yet only one group has seemed to attract your ire on this particular matter. Very interesting.

            Just as previously I provided dictionary definitions that contradicted what you claimed was the only definition of a lie or lying, I have given an answer. Maybe you just don’t like it, but claiming that I have not given one is a lie, even if you believe it. Again, try reading what I have read. Perhaps a re-reading with provide the answer that you seek.

          • HonestDebate1

            It’s not a matter of hate or ire at all, where’d you get that? It’s a matter of colorblind expectations. So many have different expectations based on skin color. That is what I hate. .. that and geographical bias that paints entire regions one way or another.

          • Ray in VT

            I get that based upon a good number of your comments, which really only criticize one particular group. Your repetition and/or endorsement of a number of positions lead me wonder about your views regarding particular groups and prejudices that you may hold against them. If you would care to point out when you have criticized rural American whites for the ways in which they speak, then please do so.

            I think that the South has earned most of the derision that gets thrown at it, both historically and presently.

          • hennorama

            Ray in VT — I had mostly ignored this albeit entertaining exchange, but three words in the comment to which you replied caught my eyes, and they seem most telling:

            “… even black ones.”

            Enjoy your merry discourse.

          • HonestDebate1

            Yes, even the black ones. That’s unique around here and you are one of those who held Rachel Jentil to a lower standard because she is black. I think that’s disgusting. I think we should expect a 19 year old woman to be able to read cursive, not use racial slurs and use proper grammar. Many here made it very clear they did not. I judge people by the content of their character. The noble position is mine.

          • Ray in VT

            I will remember that when you repeat claims that pop up all over racially prejudiced websites regarding the supposed African American penchant for raping white women and committing violent crimes against white people. Nothing fishy about the latter claim that goes back, as far as I can tell, to a “report” by a white separatist/white nationalist from 2005.

          • HonestDebate1

            Looking at it in terms of real dollars instead of percentages can never be fair. If A-rod pays a million and Joe Blo pays a thousand and you gave Mr. Blo a 100% tax cut and A-rod a 1% tax cut. Then A-rod would still pay nearly 10 times what Mr. Blo did before his cut. A-rod would pay $990,000 and Mr. Blo would pay zip (after his cut).

            I guess that some just don’t want people to think about who will get shafted by such proposals. We don’t want people to feel anything for such people.

            Yes, that’s an emotional argument.

          • Ray in VT

            Yet, with that extra hundred Joe Blo can buy a week of groceries, and A-Rod can buy a new mansion. One can certainly use percentages to try to make a million dollar tax cut look small and make a low income earner look like he’s getting a real bargain, but I think that it is below pathetic.

            Yup. We ought to just shaft the elderly and the disabled. Screw them. We don’t need no stinkin’ emotion. It’s easier that way.

          • HonestDebate1

            Have a nice day Ray.

          • Ray in VT

            And you as well. May I assume that you intentionally did not use a comma where appropriate?

          • HonestDebate1

            Yes, I liked the flow better. I’m a poet you know.

          • Ray in VT

            I prefer complete sentences, proper spelling and punctuation, although I realize that such an emphasis is relatively new in the history of the English language.

          • HonestDebate1

            I do too, as you know. It’s not new.

            There are no hard rules regarding commas in the context of the above. At least I put a space in. I thought about writing “dayRay”

            I’d be hard pressed to find a ruling in my copy of Strunk and White. My own view is to use as little punctuation as necessary. I love writing a sentence that is clear without excessive punctuation. If a comma isn’t needed for clarity then I omit it. The same goes for quotation marks. Sometimes it’s more clear to use a comma before the word but, but sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes, around prepositional phrases, it seems better to use them. Sometimes under certain circumstances I leave them out. Some go the opposite direction which is just as valid. It’s a matter of style.

          • Ray in VT

            I tend towards long, complex sentences. I know it, and sometimes I have to go over a sentence several times in order to make sure that everything lines up. I think that it is in part due to my reading habits, as I think that some things that I consider to be fun reading are fairly dense, textually speaking. Sometimes I’ll churn out a sentence that starts to look like the title page of a 19th century novel.

          • HonestDebate1

            It’s a matter of style. The one punctuation mark I do use a lot is the period.

            To me it comes down to clarity. A long complex sentence is fine if it’s clear, concise and easy to read.

          • Ray in VT

            Being clear concerns me. For many topics I do not think that being concise is possible, if one is attempting to be brief but comprehensive.

          • HonestDebate1

            By concise I mean containing nothing superfluous. That can apply to longer more complex writing as well. Brief is relative. A sentence is brief compared to a paragraph; a paragraph is brief compared to a chapter and a chapter is brief compared to a book.

          • Ray in VT

            What one considers to be superfluous can easily be highly relevant or contextualizing to another. My current bedside reading weighs in at 784 pages, so, relative to that, I will endeavor to be brief.

          • hennorama

            Ray in VT — wasn’t Pres. Bush II a so-called “compassionate conservative,” and not a “true” one?

          • Ray in VT

            Depends who you ask. Some here have called him a “true conservative” I believe is the exact term, although I could be wrong.

          • HonestDebate1

            He certainly wasn’t a true Conservative.

          • Ray in VT

            I thought that he was the sort of true or real conservative that won elections, like Ronald Reagan.

          • HonestDebate1

            He was certainly more conservative than McCain or Romney by a long shot. But his massive (or so I thought at the time) spending and surrendering of issues like “No Child Left Behind” to Ted Kennedy or his immigration proposals keep me from calling him a true Conservative.

          • Ray in VT

            You certainly seem to want to go to the mat to cover for his lies like he was a true conservative.

            One thing that I will not fault him for is taking action to attempt to combat the recession. There he had a moment to fiddle while Rome burned, but thankfully he did not. He had at least some sense.

          • Don_B1

            Of course he was a “True Conservative,” because his overspending/tax cuts baked the massive debt level into the cake that all current and future Tea/Republicans intend to use to cut/devastate the social safety net, à la “starve the beast” scenario.

          • Ray in VT

            Tax cut and spend. Just like his idol Ronnie.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Let us know when we get close to the “starve the beast” scenario. There is some much waste, fraud ,abuse and bloat built into the system it is ridiculous. Check out the most affluent zip codes in the country — they all surround DC.

          • hennorama

            Ray in VT — see what I mean? Pres. Bush II was “impure” according to some so-called “true” conservatives.

          • Ray in VT

            It depends, as so often is the case, upon how one defines or thinks of the terms.

          • HonestDebate1

            Bush was certainly more conservative than I on a host of issues.

          • hennorama

            Ray in VT — the answer is much simpler: the percentage who are legally entitled to do so.

          • HonestDebate1

            But that doesn’t really answer the question at all, it merely shifts it. What percentage of the population should be legally entitled to not pay income tax?

          • Ray in VT

            I’m sure that all of that wealth that is accumulating at the top will trickle down on the rest of us, and that magical increase in wages will pull people out of poverty and again make them “makers” instead of “takers”. Walmart makes billions in profits, so I’m sure that their workers are also benefiting from such profits by getting a wage that allows them to prosper across this land.

          • HonestDebate1

            Does 47% of the population paying nothing in [edit: income] taxes seem appropriate to you?

          • Ray in VT

            Based upon how many people we have retired and the low-wage economy that many firms have pushed, then, at present, sure. Who should pay more? The elderly? Oh wait, is that too emotional to think about who might get affected by policy? Sorry, maybe with effort I can reduce those people to merely bits and bites of data so that I don’t have to think about how changes will affect their lives.

          • hennorama

            Ray in VT — to back up your point, according to an analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), a total of 87 percent of filers who owed no FEDERAL income tax in 2011 had income that was less than their combined standard deduction and exemption amounts, were taking advantage of tax provisions related to their age, or were families that used various tax provisions related to their children and dependents.

            See:
            http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=3505

          • Ray in VT

            Now, that is not to say that there are some people who are taking advantage of the system. There is a percentage of people who are in the 47% who make over $50k. Now, depending upon what factors allow people to not pay federal income taxes, perhaps there is some percentage of people who are relatively more well off and who might be called upon to pay more in taxes without it reducing them to penury. Without more information about filers in that group, though, I would not want to make generalizations or calls for policy changes.

          • hennorama

            Ray in VT — some more recent estimates on the topic, from the Tax Policy Center, as reported by CNNMoney:

            “43% pay no federal income taxes

            NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

            A little more than 43% of U.S. households — or 70 million homes – will end up owing no federal income taxes for 2013.

            That’s down from recent years because of an improving economy and the expiration of various tax cuts that were passed after the 2008 financial crisis, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, which published its latest estimates on Thursday.

            The households with zero income tax liability are not evenly distributed across income groups. The majority this year — nearly 67% — have incomes below $30,000.

            “Many people who pay no income tax simply have too little income to owe tax. The rest benefit from the tax code’s many preferences — exclusions, deductions, exemptions, and credits — that zero out the tax they would otherwise pay,” said Roberton Williams of the Tax Policy Center.

            But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any nonpayers among high-income folks. The Tax Policy Center estimates that a little more than 1% of nonpayers have six-figure incomes or more.

            Specifically, an estimated 798,000 households in the nonpayer group make between $100,000 and $200,000 a year; 48,000 have incomes between $200,000 and $500,000; 3,000 make between $500,000 and $1 million; and 1,000 households bring in more than $1 million.”

            AND

            “The Tax Policy Center estimates the percentage of households without federal income tax liability will continue to drop, falling as low as 34% of households by 2024.”

            See:
            http://money.cnn.com/2013/08/29/pf/taxes/who-doesnt-pay-federal-income-taxes/

          • Ray in VT

            Thanks, Hennorama. As with some other factors associated with the Recession and its effects, it is not surprising that the number of people not paying federal income taxes has declined as the economy has slowly recovered.

          • Ray in VT

            Also, I could further allege that you are slipping, although the factual error in your statement, is, I think, entirely intentional.

        • John Cedar

          Like trying to have a discussion with a pms girlfriend?

      • https://www.facebook.com/kyle.rose Kyle Rose

        Actually, simplifying the tax code would likely increase the percentage top earners pay as their voluminous deductions are eliminated.

        • Ray in VT

          It depends upon how it is done. If the flat rate is set at 10%, let us say, then, based upon statements made on the campaign trail in 2012, then Mitt Romney would be getting a sizable tax cut.

          • https://www.facebook.com/kyle.rose Kyle Rose

            10% would not be nearly high enough to be revenue-neutral, so using that as a starting point for your argument is unreasonable.

          • Ray in VT

            Whether or not it is reasonable would likely depend upon whom one asks. If a flat income tax would be the only mechanism for funding the federal government, then it would not be sufficient. However, the income tax is not currently the only source of funding, as a substantial amount comes from payroll and not income taxes.

    • MrNutso

      Start with simplifying the process. Form 1040 is all encompassing, yet I only need to use 25% of the form.

  • J__o__h__n

    Someone fraudulently used my personal information and I got a letter from the IRS looking for payment. I called the taxpayer advocate and it was handled satisfactorily. This was before their budget was cut so I don’t know what is is like now. The student loan industry and their government lackeys are horrible to deal with.

  • Blue_To_Shoe

    Tom asks: Who would not want a well-prepared operation? FOXNEWs(not) viewers.

    Another example of problems created by many Americans that they won’t be called out for.

    Just all this tough talkin’ phoniness that spews from many Americans being seized upon by cynical politicians and loud-mouthed, cable TV ideologues.

  • John_Hamilton

    What a surprise. The IRS is underfunded and under-statuted. The responsible body, or really irresponsible body, is the U.S. Congress. The Congress, curiously, is almost entirely bought by corporate and Wall Street “interests.”

    Then there is the added factor of fake ideology, promoted by such fakers as Grover Norquist, which promotes the idea that taxation is the root of all evil. The campaign to “starve the beast” is succeeding beyond its hopes and dreams.

    I believe it is safe to say that IRS disenablers like Grover Norquist, the Koch brothers, various bought members of Congress, and the members of the Supreme Court who enable bribery – all are traitors in the truest sense. It is one of the great ironies of these goofy times we live in that the very same people are calling Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers traitors, when it is they who are harming the country. The harm they are doing is not rhetorical, but actual.

    I should mention that I filed early this year, and received my refund quickly. The two previous years I filed my taxes erroneously, due to the complications of retiring, IRAs and deductions. The IRS caught the errors both times, and I was surprised to receive refund checks. They may be stressed, but there is still competence there.

    This situation is yet another example of how our system has been hijacked by opportunists with agendas other than the good of the country and its people. Not surprisingly, their agendas are for themselves – money, power, privilege and prestige. As long as narcissism rules in this country, we are pretty much doomed.

    And, of course, this is all in a broader context of an unsustainable infinite-growth economic system in a condition of global climate change. Hey, we just finished with two weeks of Olympics extravaganza. Not to worry. March Madness is just around the corner. Then, opening day to the baseball season. Video games rule. There’s plenty of hyper-entertainment to keep us distracted. Ancient Rome would be awed.

  • jefe68

    Bottom line, what a mess.

  • Michael Abrams

    Recently I filed my 2013 return and had some issues, I am fortunate that I have a relative who retired from the IRS and was instrumental in walking me through the process. He let me know that some forms and issues are literally “traps” if you do not under stand how the “numbers” flow from one form to another. If a person had to call the Agency for assistance and received the poor to non existent help, there could and will be many more Americans hating the IRS due to penalties and errors which could have been avoided with proper help. I was also told that sometimes errors in returns are held until just before the time limit (3 years) for audits is up and then the taxpayer is contacted about errors which result in penalties and interest.

  • Alchemical Reaction

    Wipe the slate clean go to a flat sliding tax rate from 1% to 10%. The wealthiest Americans pay 10%. Then institute a national sales tax with a slightly higher tax rate for imports. DONE!

    • Enuff_of_this

      No need for a sliding scale, all Americans pay the same percentage.

      • TFRX

        You may well be an honest broker, so don’t get played.

        I’m not giving up on the idea of progressive taxation simply because of the number of “think tankers” I see on TV chanting “flat tax”.

        • Enuff_of_this

          It doesn’t get any fairer than that. The same burden across the board.

          • TFRX

            Bullhockey.

            When the Warren Buffets and their assistants and gofers pay the same rate, let me know.

            And let’s not throw out the baby of “fairness” with the very rich who get to rewrite their money as “capital gains” compared to the riffraffs like me who get paychecks.

          • Enuff_of_this

            Then why not advocate a sliding scale for State, local, property and consumption taxes? Who said anything about capital gains taxes? Income is income and subject to the same flat rate. You’re over thinking. Take a break and have a cocktail or something

          • TFRX

            I said something about capital gains taxes. Why? Because when the people who want to confuse CG rates with paycheck income rates fool middle class and poor Americans into thinking “I, at almost no stock holdings, need lower CG rates as much as Bill Gates does“, that’s a lot of bullflop thinking.

            Sliding scale? That’s what progressive taxation is.

          • Enuff_of_this

            A sliding scale is a croc. Everyone should be burdoned with the same percentage of their income. Period.

          • pete18

            Buffet’s secretary has the same capital gain rate as he does, but he pays far more on income.

          • StilllHere

            Excellent point, even the math-challenged should comprehend.

      • Alchemical Reaction

        That would be banal. Are you developmentally disabled?

      • Alchemical Reaction

        There is no such thing as a self made man. Everyone got where they are becasue they had help. It makes sense for the wealthy to pay a little more.

        • Enuff_of_this

          You clearly represent what is wrong with society.

          • Alchemical Reaction

            Show me ONE self made man who made his millions or billions with no help, no employees, and without using any governmental infrastructure or favors to accomplish his goals?

  • WorriedfortheCountry

    In the private sector when resources are constrained they usually innovate and find a more efficient way to deliver services. Listening to the attitude of the IRS rep they appear institutionally incapable of finding efficient solutions.

    Time for new leadership. $11B is more than enough.

    • OnPointComments

      IRS misconduct and malfeasance has nothing to do with complications of the tax code or the number of IRS employees. It has everything to do with corruption.

    • jpolock

      Sure, just like the military. Gen Shinseki (sp?) stated Iraq would require many more troops. He got removed. We got double the bill from “privatization” thru the likes of Blackwater, less troops, more expense, more fraud (billions of tax dollars still “missing”) ineffective military debacle.
      Sometimes you just need “more firepower” to solve the problem.

      • WorriedfortheCountry

        Just give them another $billion and they’ll hire CGI. And we know how that story ends.

    • TFRX

      Please throw around more context-free numbers.

      GE alone has what, six or seven hundred tax lawyers on retainer

      You really want a one-sided fight, don’tcha?

    • StilllHere

      To the big government types, getting even bigger is the answer to everything.

      • Don_B1

        Democrats are not for “big government” just for it to be big; but they recognize that government does have a role in a number of issues where individuals cannot get a fair bite at the apple without government help. If providing equal opportunity for all requires a bigger government, so be it. But if Tea/Republicans used their brains to find a cheaper or otherwise better solution that would work, rather than just opposing them, the country could be a lot better off.

        • notafeminista

          So you’re saying life isn’t fair?

          • HonestDebate1

            Who woulda’ thunk?

          • Ray in VT

            I think that he’s saying that life just doesn’t have to suck as hard for some people when the government can act in ways that endeavor to create a more perfect Union.

  • Markus6

    I have to say that you who think government agencies are underfunded, are being played for schmucks. I know the internals of a number of these and feel their costs could easily be reduced by 25 to 30% while increasing services. But the perpetrators are not necessarily those within the agencies, though they are motivated by self preservation. Most of the fault is with Congress and the Presidency.

    Top leaders in the post office wanted to shut down a data center and save millions each year. A congressman stopped them because it was in her district. Another agency wants to consolidate well over a dozen redundant groups along with all their support systems. They can’t because their congresspeople are worried the consolidation will occur outside their district. Oh and these continuing budget resolutions are a hindrance to any long term project which may realize savings. I could go on.

    The game is always the same. If you’re in government and must cut back, try to cut in an area where the voters will be hit hardest, while at the same time make loud statements that you’re trying to save essential services. Then, when problems happen, say to everyone “see, we really do need more money”.

    We really are schmucks.

  • jimino

    Hamstringing the IRS, which has calculatedly been done by movement conservatives, is similar to Shakespeare’s line, “The first thing
    we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”, about removing the protectors of societal liberty and freedom. It makes cheating the very country the malefactors of great wealth claim to be loyal to all the easier.

    • OnPointComments

      Name any of the incidents of IRS misconduct and malfeasance that would have been averted if the agency had a larger budget.

      • StilllHere

        In fact, a larger budget is directly linked to greater misconduct and malfeasance.

        • Don_B1

          Where is your proof of that?

      • jimino

        It depends. Does looking the other way and allowing massive sums of tax cheating fall into misconduct or malfeasance?

  • Human2013

    I’m so confused: I thought conservatives despise government payments, but they want to raise the EITC credit. Hmmmm….more subsidies to big business. Unbelievable!

  • Bruce94

    Thanks OnPoint for a good discussion today–one like many others that you can file under the following rubric:

    “Republicans say ‘government is not the solution, government IS the problem’–just elect us and we’ll prove it.”

    Tom asks “who favors an underfunded IRS and unregulated tax preparers?” At least part of the answer is paranoid libertarian conservatives peddling anti-government conspiracies and fear of government overreach as a smokescreen for defending the status quo where the effective tax rate for many millionaires and billionaires may be lower than that of their clerical staffs and household workers.

    The most egregious form of waste, fraud and abuse in our tax system is still found in a tax code where such disparities and corporate welfare continue and paranoid right-wing demagogues prevent tax reform that would address these inequities. When a Buffett Rule or other strategies are proposed to introduce a degree of balance in the system, the knee-jerk conservative response is to say that the wealthy should pay more taxes on a voluntary basis if they feel the need.

    Contained in that response is another insight into the libertarian mind-set that would “favor an underfunded IRS and unregulated tax preparers.” Those conservatives urging the wealthy to volunteer more taxes if they believe the system is unfair would seemingly be happier living in a countries like Somalia and Yemen that represent the most radical form of voluntary (i.e. erratic) tax payments where tax avoidance and evasion are rampant and the rule of law is anathema to the corrupt regimes thriving in those places. Yep, Somalia and Yemen where at least one aspect of the libertarian conservative Nirvana (a failed state?) could be experienced and relished by those who want to “starve the beast” here in our country.

    • notafeminista

      The quote in its entirety: “Democrats are the party that says the government will make you smarter, taller,richer and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work, then they get elected and prove it.” ~ PJ O’Rourke

      • Bruce94

        Thanks for the citation. Your reply piqued my curiosity about O’Rourke, and I just now looked him up. His credentials as a satirist and writer are indeed impressive . It’s good to know that they have a sense of humor over there at the Cato Institute. But then again, I don’t remember the last time I took anything I heard or read from the Koch founded Cato Institute all that seriously :)

        • HonestDebate1

          He used to write for Rolling Stone a hundred years ago when I subscribed. When the drug ecstasy came onto the scene he did some and wrote a review. He called it “St. Joseph’s baby acid” and scoffed at the comparisons to LSD. He ridiculed the notion it was enlightening and recalled the time he did some window pane and God peeled his head like an orange and vomited the encyclopedia Britannica into it. He has a way with words.

          • HonestDebate1

            Wow, I actually found it! I have looked many times to no avail but as I was writing my reply to you I thought to search “St. Joseph’s baby acid” with the quotes. Bingo. I think I described the gist I remembered but he is much better.

            http://books.google.com/books?id=lRedYqgyyLwC&pg=PT20&lpg=PT20&dq=%22St.+Joseph's+baby+acid%22&source=bl&ots=CsfZZNpXAu&sig=8oBoggcFIIEMxigMy_2X5tikxiM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=LBQMU76fMsuN1AGli4H4Cg&ved=0CDQQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=%22St.%20Joseph's%20baby%20acid%22&f=false

          • Bruce94

            Thanks for the link. I think I’d appreciate the piece better tomorrow after I’m fully caffeinated.

          • Bruce94

            Maybe Tom can get him on the show for some levity or levitation? I think he’s been on another NPR program, “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me.” He’s definitely an interesting dude with an interesting resume.

          • HonestDebate1

            Yes, he is on that show. You’ve got to read the link below, if nothing else but the last two paragraphs.

          • Bruce94

            I promise. I’ll get to it asap.

          • HonestDebate1

            Sorry if I was too bossy but thanks. I got excited, I haven’t read it in decades and when I just did I laughed out loud just as hard as the first time.

          • TheDailyBuzzherd

            Fair enough. But is O’Rourke wrong? Face it, even alcoholics with shot livers have opined on the side of reason, even if they live unreasonably themselves.

    • RobertLongView

      Liberia for the libertarians, eh. Why not Greece? It’s more, you know, European, and paying taxes is voluntary.

  • Mattyster

    Does anyone still believe that conservatives are ‘fiscally responsible’? They de-fund the agency that collects our country’s revenue, fraud and underpayment proliferates, they reject new rules to help fix the problems, and then they blame that agency when it can’t do its job.

    • Sy2502

      Neither of the 2 major parties is fiscally conservative. They both love to spend your money.

    • John Cedar

      I wish the republicans would “de-fund” me with $9 billion per year. Just think…I could write 18 obamecare software programs with that kind of money

  • OnPointComments

    The IRS processed 501(c)(4) applications under the current rules for more than 50 years. There are over 100,000 501(c)(4) organizations. Yet, for some reason, in 2009 the IRS suddenly and inexplicably becomes confused about the regulations for 501(c)(4)s, and decided the solution was to use inappropriate criteria to identify conservative groups for review, all in the midst of a presidential campaign.

    • hennorama

      OPC — the number of 501(c)(4) applications nearly doubled between FY 2009 and FY 2012, from 1751 to 3357.

      In addition, groups of all sorts were selected for review, not just “conservative groups.”

      The TIGTA report indicated that this was how the 298 applications broke down by name:

      Tea Party 72
      Patriot 13
      9/12 12
      OTHER 202

      And using inappropriate criteria to select applications for tax-exempt status to be reviewed does not in and of itself mean that the applications should not have been reviewed. The TIGTA report indicated that at least 205 of the 298 applications were appropriately selected as “potential political cases,” and as many as 185 other applications SHOULD have been reviewed, but were not.

      As the saying goes, “you can look it up.”

      • OnPointComments

        Let me see if I’ve got this right: the IRS, an agency with over 90,000 employees and an annual budget over $11 billion, was overwhelmed by an increase of roughly 535 tax exempt applications a year. This explanation strains credulity. According to House Ways and Means Committee staff, the conservative groups that were targeted were asked three times the number of questions as the 7 progressive groups that were identified for review; further, while 100% of progressive organizations’ applications were approved, only 46% of conservative organizations’ applications were approved. From Dave Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee: “At Washington, DC’s direction, dozens of groups operating as 501(c)(4)s were flagged for IRS surveillance, including monitoring of the groups’ activities, websites and any other publicly available information. Of these groups, 83% were right-leaning. And of the groups the IRS selected for audit, 100% were right-leaning.”

        Surely we will reach a point where even you concede that there are too many coincidences to ignore.

        • hennorama

          OPC — TYFYR.

          The number of 501(c)(4) applications exploded after the citizens United decision in erly 2010, increasing from 1735 in FY 2010 to 3357 in FY 2012.

          And of course, there were 89 applications for 501(c)(3) status among the 298 identified applications.

          It’s rather hilarious that you cite the budget and total number of IRS employees.

          Why? Because for more than a year and a half, there was exactly ONE PERSON who was “assigned potential political cases” From April 2010 until sometime in December 2011, the “team of specialists” was ONE PERSON.

          For those who haven’t read the complete TIGTA report on the matter, it found,

          “[31] Of 298 cases reviewed, 89 were I.R.C. § 501(c)(3) organizations.” (page 12 of the report)

          “The Determinations Unit developed and used inappropriate criteria to identify applications from organizations with the words Tea Party in their names. These applications (hereafter referred to as potential
          political cases) [13] were forwarded to a team of specialists [14] for review.” (page 5)

          This “team of specialists” had exactly ONE PERSON who was “assigned potential political cases” from April 2010 until sometime in December 2011. ONE PERSON.

          “[14] Initially, the team consisted of one specialist, but it was expanded to several specialists in December 2011. The EO function referred to this team as the advocacy team.” (page 13)

          ======
          Please forgive me for not taking much of the balance of your post seriously.

          • OnPointComments

            Maybe they could assign some of the applications to the 200 IRS employees who only work on union matters.

        • hennorama

          OPC — regarding Rep. Camp’s remarks:

          Assuming they are accurate and factual (which is far from certain), notice that there are no hard numbers presented.

          Let’s use the minimum possible number for his claim of “dozens of group”: 24.

          This would mean that of these “dozens of groups,” 20 (“83%) were “right-leaning,” whatever THAT term means.

          Now, notice again there was no number given for “the groups the IRS selected for audit,” meaning this could be 2 out of 2 (“100%”) that were “right-leaning,” again, whatever THAT means.

          I seem to recall someone in this forum writing something like “when they give you percentages, ask for the numbers.” Who could that have been, I wonder?

    • John Cedar

      And by a giant coincidence, Obama has proposed changing the rules to accomplish what his IRS was trying to accomplish through harassment.

      • Don_B1

        Actually, the proposals I have seen do not do what should be done, just revert to the status prior to 1959, when none of these political groups, conservative or liberal, would qualify for tax-exempt status.

        • OnPointComments

          And by a giant coincidence, President Obama did not get the IRS to include 501(c)(5) organizations, which includes labor unions, under the proposed new regulation, even though it is 501(c)(4), (5), and (6) organizations that fall under the 55 year old regulation allowing expenditures for political campaign activities if such activities do not constitute the organization’s primary activity.

        • John Cedar

          There is no reason in the world why these free speech expenditures should be taxed a second time, as you propose. The contributors pay tax on the money before they contribute it (unless its tax deductible union dues). Just because this free speech money is pooled together with others, before it is spent, should not make it a taxable event.

    • Don_B1

      It was only after Citizens United that businesses and big contributors began looking for avenues to keep their names off large contributions that a lot of political groups decided that 501(c)(4) groups were a good way to hide their contributions, so a big push built up for political groups to get tax-exempt status, so that explains the rash of new groups applying for that status, and the pressure on the I.R.S. to clear them quickly when they did not have the manpower to do it without taking shortcuts.

      But you knew all this but thought you could get a “fast one” by readers here who do not know enough to immediately recognize your deception.

      • OnPointComments

        Funny how the 501(c)(4) regulations worked just fine for over 50 years. I’ll go with Hennorama’s statement that “501(c)(4) applications exploded after the Citizens United decision in early 2010, increasing from 1735 in FY 2010 to 3357 in FY 2012.” Does this ‘explosion’ of 1622 applications over 3 years really constitute a “rash” of new groups? Do you really believe that if the IRS was an adept, efficient organization, it couldn’t have marshaled a tiny fraction of its 90,000 employees and $11 billion dollar budget to handle an additional 540 applications a year?

  • Sy2502

    The best way to cut IRS costs is a complete overhaul of the tax system, which is by now so complicated and contorted that only experts really understand it. A simpler tax system is a clearer tax system, which makes it easier for the regular person to do their taxes rights, which makes it easier for the IRS to check they did them right. And a simpler system makes it harder for crooks to hide behind byzantine rules and loopholes.

  • TheDailyBuzzherd

    The iRS, Practical Rant: As a taxpayer, I can complain that despite tax complexities it’s possible to have multiple solutions for one tax situation. This is ridiculous. Tax preparation basically is math. Math is the primary language of tax preparation: take quality notes, use them to perform your calculations, submit. So it’s a REAL drag to realize there’s literally many possible outcomes for one tax situation. I was always taught in arithmetic that there’s exactly ONE solution for every problem.

    The iRS, Political Rant: Yesh … the GOP wants it both ways. Pay as little tax as humanly possible AND afforded all the benefits a strong economy and military a republic can provide. Yet, it seems many of the most well-off folks continue to complain that they are being ripped off by free-loaders and an overly-aggressive tax agency. Those people should be reminded that it’s easy to complain from where they sit than be one of the many strugglers.

    Net: Don’t expect real change at the iRS. Americans like talk better than change. I guess we like to keep crumbs on the table for the next guy to pick up.

    • RobertLongView

      Inside the dog-eat-dog DC Beltway or our Outback TEA Party land math is situational! Sort of like the truth and politics, you know. It’s all about posturing and the voter’s lack of memory.

  • OnPointComments

    DON’T LET THE IRS SILENCE CRITICS OF PRESIDENT OBAMA’S POLICIES
    by Rep. Tom Price
    http://washingtonexaminer.com/dont-let-the-irs-silence-critics-of-president-obamas-policies/article/2544452

    Excerpt:

    What happens when one voices opposition to “big government?” Under President Obama, you may be targeted by the Internal Revenue Service. They will audit you, show up at your place of employment and sic other executive agencies on your family or business.

    In November, the IRS announced that it would completely transform the 501(c)(4) classification used by groups organized for the purposes of “social welfare”…The Obama administration argues that the current rules governing 501(c)(4) groups are too complicated for them to administer properly. Their complaint is pretty perplexing, considering the rules governing these non-profits aren’t new. In fact, they were established in 1959. Fifty-five years seem like plenty of time for the IRS to figure out how to regulate nonprofits.

    Unsurprisingly, such changes to the IRS code won’t affect a key Democrat political beneficiary — labor unions.

    Sadly, this is just the latest in the never-ending saga of Obama’s executive overreach and use of the federal government to punish those with whom he disagrees.

    • Ray in VT

      Poor, poor “social welfare” groups who want to run political activities, operate tax free and keep their donors secret. Oh, to be that oppressed. Of course nothing stops them from running all of that dark money through other channels, but they seem to think that they have a right to a status that their activities may preclude them from attaining. Perhaps it is easier to play the victim card and claim persecution and conspiracies.

      • OnPointComments

        Maybe the 501(c)(4)s will organize as unions, then it’s anything goes with playing politics.

        • Ray in VT

          Go ahead and let them argue the case, and when they get questioned about why they should get that status, then they can p*ss and moan and claim persecution some more.

    • Don_B1

      And you are raising a red herring argument, as until Citizens United, there was no problem because only genuine “social welfare” groups sought tax-exempt status and it was easy to administer!

      What is disgusting about President Obama’s response, at least so far, is that he has not advocated return to the actual statute, under which none of these political groups would be qualified for tax-exempt status.

      • OnPointComments

        Would you also extend the ban on political expenditures to unions? Or would they get a pass under your system?

  • hennorama

    Here’s a video titled “Debunking Myths About Who Pays No Federal Income Tax,” from The Urban Institute. It’s short and well-done, and includes estimates for the 2013 tax year and the future.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nM7orhQIzKM

    • pete18

      Nothing was debunked. No one has ever claimed that that 47% didn’t pay state or sales taxes or for their Social Security. Like title says, it’s Federal Income Tax that is being discussed, nothing else.

    • HonestDebate1

      Well, if the percentage is now 43% then I will admit it’s a good thing that Obama has increased the tax burden on the poor. I question the timing while people are hurting though.

      Beyond that I can see why the Urban Center is said to be left leaning. The use of straw men created by telling Conservatives what they think is typical. They tout social policies over community. They say the income tax encourages people to save for their old age as Obama refuses to address entitlements going broke. They say it encourages charity as Obama fights tooth and nail to end or reduce charitable deductions. They say it helps pay for insurance as Obama causes premiums to skyrocket. And that’s just the first minute.

      I also think the title is odd since they go to great pains to emphasize other taxes beyond the income tax. The argument is about federal income tax… or one is led to believe by the title. But even then, what is the relevance
      of who pays no income tax? The issue my ilk are concerned with is the high percentage, whoever they are.

    • Bruce94

      Well done! Even the most ideologically driven “economic illiterate” who is hell bent on demonizing the poor and mischaracterizing the 47% as “takers” can now get the picture.

      In addition, I find it interesting that depending on economic conditions, individuals and their families are not the only ones who may legally avoid paying fed. income taxes. Corporations and small business owners also get a pass during hard times when they have net operating losses and/or can deduct business losses from taxable income in order to eliminate their tax liability. This is not to suggest that those businesses, just like individuals, who may not pay income tax in a given year, often do pay taxes in subsequent years over time.

      The bottom line, of course, is that fed. income taxes are not the only taxes people pay. Other fed. taxes including payroll and excise taxes are very regressive, and most state and local taxes are equally or more regressive. The result is that taken as a whole, our overall tax system is only slightly progressive. The following article, “Misconceptions and Realities about Who Pays Taxes” is a bit dated, but provides in tables and graphs what your link does in pictures and narration (see link below).

      IMO, it’s hard to view your video or read the article without concluding that we’re long overdue for tax reform or a tax hike that would generate new revenues from those in society who are the most fortunate and wealthiest among us.

      http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=3505#_ftn22

      • HonestDebate1

        “IMO, it’s hard to view your video or read the article without concluding that we’re long overdue for tax reform or a tax hike that would generate new revenues from those in society who are the most fortunate and wealthiest among us.”

        I agree 110% with the notion of tax reform. But there is no possible way to tax our way out of this mess with hikes. The wealthy are already paying a higher percentage of the bill than at anytime in history.

        • Bruce94

          “the wealthy are already paying a higher percentage of the bill…” — Only if you look mostly at the revenues generated by fed. income taxes, and so what? If this is true, it’s only because of an unprecedented redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top over the past 30 years (with a brief reversal of the trend during the Clinton administration).

          If the portion of fed. revenues generated by the top 1% is higher now than in the past, it’s because their income has risen at a faster rate than their tax rate has fallen. Most nonpartisan experts now acknowledge that the benefits from the economic recovery since the 2008 crash, that is, the corporate profits and productivity gains, have gone disproportionately to the wealthy.

          I’ll take your point that we “can’t tax our way out of this mess,” and agree some entitlement reforms to rein in healthcare costs will be necessary. However, middle-class and working poor families have already made huge sacrifices in the Great Recession. And now I believe that it’s reasonable to ask the corporate elites and super rich to pony up.

          • HonestDebate1

            It is true because of the Bush tax cuts that released 6 million of the poorest from the tax rolls through his enhancement to the EITC. 6 million is a big number, the rich took up the slack.

            I just think we need to grow the economy and create more taxpayers. The math works far better with more taxpayers paying lower taxes than it does with fewer people paying higher taxes.

          • The poster formerly known as t

            I think what you’re trying to say is this: “Let’s just grow the economy, stupid. How hard could that be? Let’s just lift all regulations and throw minimum wage laws and worker rights in the garbage and we’d be back in exponential growth territory and full employment. ”

            Here’s the problem with exponential growth and full employment in the 2010s. More workers working would be paying lower taxes because they would earn less. On paper, it would look like wages, goods, and profits would be going up, but adjusting for inflation, one would find purchasing power sinking like a rock as the prices of commodities would soar to a point a recession would be triggered. At full employment, oil prices would probably go to $5.00 gallon which would trigger a recession and employers would react by a few high-skill, high aptitude jobs and many low skill low wage jobs at the bottom. Sounds familiar? That’s where we are.

            “It is true because of the Bush tax cuts that released 6 million of the poorest from the tax rolls through his enhancement to the EITC….the rich took up the slack.”
            I don’t believe this. The fact that we’re running large deficits tells me that NO ONE took up the slack between 2000 and now. The only way they could have taken up the slack is if they voluntarily agreed to pay more in taxes. Everyone knows that that didn’t happen, isn’t happening and increasingly looks like won’t happen. I also don’t believe it because it fits with this elitist narrative of the poor benefiting too much from the superior work ethic and intellect of the elite that is prevalent amongst the top 20% of income-earners. There’s some truth to the narrative…but like many half-truths it is not the whole story.

          • HonestDebate1

            “Let’s just grow the economy, stupid. How hard could that be?”

            I was with you up to that point. The rich did take up the slack, it’s not debatable, they keep track of these things.

          • The poster formerly known as t

            Where is your evidence for this assertion that the rich have stepped up to pay the for tax cuts that supposedly benefited the poor?

          • HonestDebate1

            if you take six million people off the rolls then it has to be made up somewhere, no? That’s what the EITC did. Now the top 1% pay 39% of the bill. In 2000 when Bush was elected it was 37%.

          • pete18

            The great misnomer in your statement, shared by many on your side, is that wealth is a static pie that gets cut up like a pie and passed around. If the someone from “1%” that’s sitting at the table gets a bigger slice that means someone from the bottom 47% gets a smaller slice. But that’s not how income and money works.

            A good description here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/objectivist/2011/06/14/when-it-comes-to-wealth-creation-there-is-no-pie/

        • Ray in VT

          And they’re also taking in a greater share of the nation’s wealth and income now currently than they have in the last 85 years or so. If one wants to raise revenues, then one has to tax where the money is. The wealthy are also paying lower rates now than they have at just about any time throughout the past 85 years or so.

          • HonestDebate1

            They took nothing.

            There isn’t enough money to do anything meaningful even if we took 100% of the rich’s money. The math just isn’t there. If we want revenue then we must create jobs and taxpayers.

            Looking at the rates in a vacuum is irrelevant. We brought in less revenue as percentage of GDP on average when the rates were 90% than under Bush’s rates. Whatever the rate is, the rich are paying a larger portion of the bill than at anytime in the history of the universe. This is not healthy.

          • Ray in VT

            Oh, they’re taking in plenty. Plenty more than they have for decades, but I guess that we should feel bad for how bad they have it. They’re facing a sort of looming persecution rather like the Jews in Europe in the 1930s according to some.

            Who is arguing for a 100% tax on the wealthy? Kennedy thought that the country could prosper with a top tax rate of 70%, yet somehow today one of the lowest rates in decades is somehow oppressive to people whose wealth has exploded since we headed down the trickle down road.

            Yes, we brought in less revenue in part because we took in less in payroll taxes. Reagan brought in way more revenue as a share of GDP that Bush II, and guess what. Rates were higher. Ole Mitt would have paid much more under Reagan, considering the much higher capital gains tax rate.

            “rich are paying a larger portion of the bill than at anytime in the history of the universe.” I love some hyperbole early in the morning. Why even bother with such ludicrous statements? The money in this country has been racing to the top for 30 years, which is not healthy. One has to tax where the money is. One can raise more revenue by taxing A-Rod’s baseball salary at the Clinton rate versus the Bush rate than by taking 10% from nearly 5,000 families making 20k/year.

            I agree, though, having such a massive concentration of wealth among a few with stagnant and subsistence level wages for millions isn’t a good thing, but it is what 30 years of trickle down and free trade with Third World nations has delivered to us.

          • HonestDebate1

            Your first paragraph is just weird, I’ll skip it.

            I didn’t say anyone was arguing for a 100% tax. But you are advocating a higher rate than we have. I am illustrating it’s futile and useless. And again looking at the rates in a vacuum is silly. Compare the tax codes and you will find a plethora of major differences beyond the rates. And that’s before you factor externals like the state of the economy and geo-politics.

            “rich are paying a larger portion of the bill than at anytime in the history of the universe.” How can that be ludicrous and true at the same time?

          • Ray in VT

            It is weird. One has to wonder about the intelligence or sanity of those who promote such views.

            There’s plenty of differences to be sure, and I’m fine with getting rid of a good number of the loopholes that allow people and companies of very substantial means to get away with pay little to nothing in taxes.

            “”rich are paying a larger portion of the bill than at anytime in the
            history of the universe.” How can that be ludicrous and true at the same
            time?” Easy. It is ludicrous because it is not true. It is, in fact, false, and a lie.

          • HonestDebate1

            Who promotes such views?

            The top 1% pay 39% of the bill. When has it been higher?

            In 1980 the top rate was 70% and the top 1% paid only 19% of the bill.

            These are facts Ray.

          • Ray in VT

            That jerk-wad billionaire whatever his name is. I think that the WSJ gave him some space to spread his inane views recently.

            Take a look at the tax rates from way back in the day. For instance, I am looking at one year where the nominal rate in 2014 dollars for incomes up to almost $47,000 was 4.0%, while the rate for those in about what is now the top 1% started at 23% and ranged up to 73%.

            Also, 39% may just be their share of the income tax bill:

            http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/apr/18/michele-bachmann/michele-bachmann-says-top-1-percent-pay-40-percent/

            According to the CBO in 2007 the top 1%’s share of the total federal tax bill was 28.1%
            In 1979 the top 1% took in 8% of the national’s after tax income. In 2007 it was 17%. Real income for that group went up by some 275% during that period of time. Of course they’re paying more. The piece of the pie that they get has doubled, and in recent years they have taken in a share not seen since the 1920s. These are facts.

      • pete18

        “Corporations and small business owners also get a pass during hard times when they have net operating losses and/or can deduct business losses from taxable income in order to eliminate their tax liability.”

        That’s not “getting a pass” it’s called paying taxes profits not on losses. Completely fair, makes perfect sense and has always been the case, in good and hard times.

    • OnPointComments

      As this chart from the CBO shows, the fourth and fifth quintiles are the only quintiles that pay net federal taxes. The federal government does not run on state income taxes, state and local property taxes, or state sales taxes.

  • notafeminista

    “They probably never would have had to…..” translates to you have no idea.

  • Holly

    A national sales tax would eliminate the need for much of the IRS machine and save taxpayers billions of dollars in IRS overhead. Simplify the system.

  • Holly

    A national sales tax would eliminate the need for much of the IRS machine and save taxpayers billions of dollars in IRS overhead. Simplify the system.

    Those who make more and spend more… and would then pay more. No annual filing, no CPA costs, no waiting for refunds, no loopholes, no maze of tax codes. Non-profits and churches should be treated no differently… everyone pays the national sales tax at the time of the sale.

  • Holly

    National Sales Tax. Those who make more and spend more… and would then pay more. No annual filing, no CPA costs, no waiting for refunds, no loopholes, no maze of tax codes. Non-profits and churches should be treated no differently… everyone pays the national sales tax at the time of the sale.

    • TFRX

      (Did you post multiples because the original didn’t appear on your screen? Disqus is good at messing things up like that.)

  • Arkuy The Great

    If we are going to collect income taxes, as per the 16th Amendment, we need an IRS to do the job. That said, the current tax code is so complex that full, perfect compliance is all but impossible. If the IRS is to be made more efficient at collection the laws need to be simplified to the maximum extent possible. That means doing away with the vast majority of the current 16,000 pages of tax laws and starting afresh. Without doing so the individual taxpayer will always be in doubt whether he has followed the rules properly and IRS officials will be unable to enforce them equitably.

    My proposal, for what it is worth, is a single flat tax of 21%, starting at $15,000. That applies to wages, salaries, investment income and, yes, capital gains. At the same time, eliminate FICA payroll taxes; SS and Medicare collections have been accounted as “revenue” sine 1968 and it is time to end the charade of the “trust fund” that does not exist. Also, no more deductions, credits, AMT, etc.

    • The poster formerly known as t

      A flat consumption tax would be more efficient and would force us to move away from waste and wealth concentration…because it wouldn’t make for any one or any organization to accumulate huge amounts of wealth…or to waste. Imagine a high tax ($1/per per pound) on the processed meat at fast food chains instead of corporate taxes. It would combat human health, environmental, and wealth concentration problems all at once!

  • The poster formerly known as t

    The tax code exists to create meaningless work in order to keep people busy, just like many jobs in education, the military, and law enforcement.

  • Cacimo

    FLAT TAX is the answer.

    Olson admits the tax code is soooo complicated average people are unable to deal with the burden. The IRS itself is unable to properly answer the publics questions. In true Orwellian style her answer is even more regulation. Great then we can create an agency to ensure paid preparers are complying. STOP.

  • Cacimo

    Hopefully Tom will follow up on the IRS being used as a political weapon to target conservative groups. Louis Lerner pled the fifth. Numerous investigations are ongoing and yet Tom seemed to think it was a settled matter. When fifty percent of the country feels they are being targeted and the press has no interest in the matter – there is a real problem.

  • Richard Jablonski

    Over the past 40 years or so I’ve had numerous interactions with the U.S. IRS and I recall without exception I was treated promptly, with courtesy, and received appropriate answers. My impression is that the IRS has been revenue-starved, especially in recent years, which means that computer and human resources have become unequal to its responsibilities.

  • Andrew Page

    Wouldn’t alot of this be solved by moving to a ‘flat tax’? They be able to devote more budget and personnel to security and customer service.

  • Zack Smith

    Propaganda.

    Why didn’t On Point bring on an adversary of the IRS to recount some of the horror stories experienced by one of the most loathed institutions in the country. All of the criticisms were pinned on “lack of funding”, but there was no true adversary pointing out the systemic persecution of the populace conducted by the IRS. As usual, On Point carries water for the statist establishment.

    Another point – the assumption that stringent government licensing on tax preparers will fix fraud issues is absurd. Look at all of the billions in Medicare fraud carried out by government regulated physicians, or the govt. regulated banks that exacerbated the 2008 financial crisis with risky loans.

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Apr 18, 2014
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Apr 18, 2014
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