NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Sins Of The IRS

April 2, 1997

The Internal Revenue Service ranks last among 200 firms and government agencies on the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, compiled at the University of Michigan. Nobody likes paying taxes, so is the IRS getting an undeserved bad rap? Or is it doing something -- or not doing something -- that makes taxpayers angry.

Critics point to a number of agency "sins" that could be responsible for its being held in low esteem.

  • Even with an error rate of 11 percent on its public advice "help line," the agency does not hold itself responsible when it gives bad advice to taxpayers.
  • The General Accounting Office has found that the IRS processes one in every five tax returns incorrectly -- and its victims can forget receiving an apology.
  • Although it demands rigorous accounting by taxpayers, the GAO says the agency has been unable to account for two-thirds of its own spending.
  • Despite a budget that has more than doubled since 1980, the IRS fails to collect about 14 percent of taxes owed.

Then there are the accusations of abuses of power -- such as invasions of privacy and politically-motivated audits.

Critics say respect will continue to elude the agency until Congress makes the tax code much simpler -- allowing the IRS to know what it is doing. Better still, they say, enact a flat tax and disband the agency completely.

Source: Perspective, "Hating the Taxman," Investor's Business Daily, April 2, 1997.


Browse more articles on Tax and Spending Issues