Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA


June 26, 2013

Beleaguered IRS undermines public trust

America’s system of voluntary tax compliance works in large measure by keeping up the public’s trust in government. Through wages, investment income and fuel taxes, taxpayers contribute a sizable share of their hard-earned money to finance government services for the public good.A century ago, three-fourths of the states ratified the 16th Amendment, giving a constitutional green light to the federal government to raise revenue via an income tax. So starting in 1913, the beginnings of the Internal Revenue Code and Internal Revenue Service were born. Fast forward 100 years, and public opinion would suggest the agency is more beleaguered than beloved.Arguably, the IRS likely will never rank among the most popular services of government. But it doesn’t help that the agency keeps hurting itself. Most recently, the self-inflicted wounds hit bone-deep resentment among taxpayers when news broke that the IRS allegedly targeted groups solely for perceived political affiliation and spent $49 million on conferences in three years.Public trust in government already was low before the IRS debacles. Now Washington must work even harder to prevent further erosion of trust, especially in the IRS, to protect our system of voluntary tax compliance. We can’t afford to give tax cheats a reason to skirt their tax obligations. Tax cheats make chumps out of those who “pay” by the rules.I worked over the years to reform the federal tax-collecting agency. Through leadership on the Senate Finance Committee, which has legislative and oversight jurisdiction over the IRS, I sought to help remind the agency that “service” defines its most basic duty to the taxpaying public.As a member of the National IRS Restructuring Commission in 1998, I worked with policymakers, IRS officials and the taxpaying public to identify and improve the effectiveness of the IRS. At the time, congressional hearings exposed the agency’s heavy-handed enforcement techniques that left taxpayers, especially small businesses, at an extreme and unfair disadvantage. Congress adopted many of the commission’s recommendations, enacting the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, including 71 new taxpayer rights, and reorganized the agency to improve governance, accessibility and accountability, strengthen customer service and carry out effective, fair enforcement of the nation’s tax laws. Some 15 years later, the IRS finds itself in hot water for squandering $4.1 million tax dollars in 2010 on a single conference in Anaheim, Calif. That’s the same year in which the General Services Administration wasted $822,000 on a retreat in Las Vegas. In Southern California, IRS conference organizers booked three hotels, spent more than $50,000 on videos, including a “Star Trek” parody, and allowed 45 employees who lived near the event to also stay at the hotels and receive daily spending allowances.The conference took place near Disneyland, widely known as the “happiest place on earth.” With the $4.1 million IRS event on the taxpayer’s dime now exposed by an audit of Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration, something tells me the American taxpayers are not feeling happy.That especially holds true for witnesses who testified before Congress in June about politically motivated delays and questioning by IRS officials. During their testimony, witnesses – including an Iowan from Cedar Rapids — described being singled out and mistreated by the IRS solely because of their political affiliation.Thank goodness our system of checks and balances requires Congress to keep a close eye on the executive and judicial branches of government. Lawmakers and the independent watchdogs within the federal government have their work cut out for them to keep the IRS and others from committing more self-inflicted wounds. Decision-makers at the IRS are getting a clear message. Borrowing from “Star Trek,” the agency must boldly go where it has not gone before and dedicate itself more than ever to gaining public trust.

Text Only
  • 073114 Obamacare Cartoon The next front in the battle over Obamacare You may be seeing a con­certed attempt by liberals and their media allies to convince you that Obamacare is 1) succeeding; 2) losing political impact for the midterms; and 3) being emphasized less frequently by Republicans on the campaign trail.In fa

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Solicitation ordinance? Week 2 Editor’s Note: This is the same Question of the Week as last Thursday. This question was allowed to run two weeks so it will end on Wednesday, Aug. 6, one day before the Centerville City Council holds a special meeting to discuss the solicitation ord

    July 31, 2014

  • 073114 Working Cartoon Teens not working doesn't work for America Here’s a trend that may not bode well for the future of our country: According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 40 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds have summer jobs — down from 75 percent of teens a generation ago.As it goes, according

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Black eye at the FBI To some observers, it might seem awfully tedious work, not worth the effort.Congressional oversight requires patience, resilience and earnestness. Tracking down answers, obtaining documents and interviewing whistleblowers typically are not met with a

    July 29, 2014

  • Catholic charities help illegal aliens During the 2012 presidential election, Republicans thought they found a sure path to victory. While it was obvious that long-coveted Hispanics weren’t going to budge, a different group (which an overwhelming majority of Hispanics belong) showed promi

    July 23, 2014

  • Solicitation ordinance? The Daily Iowegian will publish an editorial Question of the Week on the Opinion page.The Iowegian wants readers to think about the solicitation ordinance that will prevent groups or individuals from entering a roadway to solicit money. The Centervil

    July 23, 2014

  • Stinking U.S.-Mexican border politics Here’s a modest proposal for solving the “Children’s Invasion” on our southwestern borders.Next time a planeload of “unaccompanied alien children” from Honduras or Guatemala is being dispersed to their relatives in the U.S., the pilot should divert t

    July 23, 2014

  • Don't let Big Oil bully biofuels It’s vacation season across America. That means family road trips are underway and the traveling public is paying even closer attention when they pull up to the pump. Today’s drivers also value clean-burning fuel choices that help the environment and

    July 22, 2014

  • Lerner's illegal instant message trick It was so brazen. Right there, over email, Lois Lerner warned her colleagues “Congress has asked for emails ... so we need to be cautious about what we say in emails.” Then she asked whether the IRS’s instant messaging application was being archived,

    July 17, 2014

  • Going to visit the AC Fair? The Daily Iowegian will publish an editorial Question of the Week on the Opinion page.The Iowegian wants readers to think about the 2014 Appanoose County Fair. It starts Monday and wraps up on Saturday with a demolition derby at 8 p.m.So, the questio

    July 17, 2014

  • Compliance with open meetings law Editor’s Note: This is a monthly column prepared by the Iowa Public Information Board to update Iowans on the IPIB’s activities and provide information on some of the issues routinely addressed by the board.Iowa courts have not yet definitively answe

    July 14, 2014

  • Making time for others Dear Editor,We live in a time where we depend on modern conveniences to save us time. We enjoy the pleasures of having vehicles, computers, dishwashers, running water, electricity, fast food, washers and dryers while expecting these conveniences to f

    July 14, 2014

  • The right to a paid vacation Ah, summer is here. We all know what that means: The rights crowd will demand that our politicians pass new federal laws to make paid vacation mandatory.It is true that the United States is the only advanced economy that does not require employers to

    July 10, 2014

  • Vote for U.S. representative? The Daily Iowegian will publish an Editorial Question of the Week on the Opinion page.The Iowegian wants readers to think about the upcoming election in November. In the next few weeks and months we will ask our readers to pick a candidate in selecte

    July 10, 2014

  • A defensive response and the IRS Ring, ring.“Hello, this is Tom.”“Hello, Tom, this is the federal government. We are going to audit your taxes and want to see all of your records for 2011.”“Sorry, federal government, but my computer crashed in 2011. All of my emails, electronic rece

    June 25, 2014

Featured Ads

The Iowegian wants readers to think about the solicitation ordinance that will prevent groups or individuals from entering a roadway to solicit money. The Centerville City Council in June by a 5-0 vote passed the first reading of just such an ordinance. Public pressure and during a subsequent special meeting, the council voted 3-2 to table the ordinance. A second special meeting to discuss the solicitation ordinance is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7 at City Hall. So, the question of the week is, "Do you or do you not support the ordinance to prevent solicitation of funds in city streets?"

A. I support the ordinance
B. I do not support the ordinance
C. Not sure
     View Results
Iowegian on Facebook