Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis’ Oct. 14 guest column on the proposed new IRS reporting requirement was an interesting read. Although I do think this is an important …
Sens. John Barrasso and Cynthia Lummis’ Oct. 14 guest column on the proposed new IRS reporting requirement was an interesting read. Although I do think this is an important topic that all taxpayers should be thinking about and discussing, I take issue with the way it was framed in their column. I noticed that they were very careful not to make blatantly-untrue claims about the policy, but I’m disappointed (although not surprised) that they resorted to scaremongering and exaggerations, rather than representing the issue in a way that was more likely to inform the reader.
If this proposal were to survive the legislative process, the IRS would not “spy on” where or how you spend your money. (Companies like Facebook are another story — and isn’t it odd that this controversy is hitting the news just as they’re coming under fire once again, for misusing people’s data and invading their privacy?) Even if that were part of the proposal — which, I again emphasize, it is not — the IRS could not afford to waste time or manpower in looking at nickel-and-dime political contributions, or that trip you made to the ATM at Planet Lockwood. It barely has the resources to handle the information it’s already getting!
Instead, it would most likely go on doing what it’s currently doing — disproportionately auditing the working poor — not because that’s where the money is, but precisely because that’s where it isn’t. For most of us, lawyering up to fight a ruling we disagree with is a lot more intimidating and uncertain (and often more expensive, especially if we lose) than writing a check for what the feds have decided we owe, and trying to move on with our lives. But there are people who can afford lawyers much more easily than they can afford to pay what they legally owe, and it’s in those people’s best interest if the system continues to operate as intended. If they can get ordinary citizens to hate the IRS a little more in the process, that’s a win too.
Does that sound fair to you? It certainly doesn’t to me… but demonizing the IRS with a “Big Brother” narrative won’t fix what’s wrong with it. The solution is to change the incentives that the agency works under, and to point it towards the people who actually control the money in this country. Our senators are among the few Americans who have the Constitutional authority to make those changes — but they don’t want to, because the people who can fund their reelection don’t want them to. That seems to be all that matters anymore.
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