In the aftermath of the “Ides of April,” are you feeling lighter in the wallet and heavier in the heart? Me, too. So, I suspect, are most hard-working, law-abiding American taxpayers.
Even before the recent Internal Revenue Service scandal involving targeting conservatives for “special scrutiny,” the IRS has long been a source of fear and frustration for way too many of us.
For starters, the IRS has extraordinary powers, stemming from the Sixteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” Ratified Feb. 3, 1913, it was controversial then – and controversial now.
Over time, the IRS has become more and more powerful. More power tends to corrupt even more. We’ve seen this problem all too often in our elected officials at all levels. Now we’re seeing it in the IRS.
We fear the IRS because we know it has immense powers of tax collection and tax law enforcement. Abuse of these powers can destroy people’s lives. The claim this rarely happens is cold comfort to those who have experienced it “up close and personal.”
Fear of the IRS is exacerbated by the frustration Americans endure every year as they encounter the labyrinth of legalese contained in the IRS rules and regulations. Ordinary taxpayers are ill-equipped to grasp what has become a hopelessly complicated process.
So many of us, myself included, turn to the experts to manage us through the maze.
In short, we pay others to deliver us from the evils of fear and frustration, even as we pony up whatever we owe the IRS. If that’s not irony, I don’t know what is.
If we’re fortunate enough to get a tax refund, don’t expect any interest on it. The IRS only collects interest on what we owe in back taxes, not on what we “loaned” the federal government for the past year or so.
Most Americans support some kind of tax reform because they fear the current system and are frustrated by the complexities of complying with it. For whatever it’s worth, I favor the idea of a flat, fair tax.
A fair, flat tax, properly implemented, would be simpler to pay and easier to enforce. If you make $100,000 per year and the tax rate is 15 percent, you pay $15,000 in federal income taxes – no more and no less. If I make $50,000, I pay $7,500 in taxes. Meanwhile, I aspire to earn what you do, even though my taxes would double. Why? Because I believe those Americans who earn more should pay more taxes – and be able to keep more of the money they earn.
More on the vices of the current federal income tax system and the virtues of a fair, flat tax system next week.
Retired Army Col. Thomas B. Vaughn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.