The Corner

The IRS: The Government’s Most Pathetic Agency

As Lois “Not Even a Smidgen of Corruption” Lerner asserts her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination yet again, it’s useful to take a bit broader look at the corruption, partisanship, maliciousness, and utter incompetence of our nation’s tax-collecting agency. Let’s break this down:

Corruption: Not only did the IRS target conservative tax-exempt applications for delays and excessive, unconstitutional scrutiny, it also flagged already-approved conservative groups for excessive surveillance, exclusively audited conservative nonprofits, leaked conservatives’ confidential documents to a liberal media outlet, and engaged in potentially improper coordination and communication with the Federal Election Commission. Taken together, this level of corruption may have had a material influence on the outcome of the 2012 election.

Partisanship: With a partisan Democratic IRS represented by a partisan union, it’s hardly surprising that the IRS has taken it upon itself to respond to specifically Democratic complaints and work to effectively reject the First Amendment and do all it can to overturn the Supreme Court of the United States’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission – even to the point of going “off-plan” to draft draconian new speech-restrictive regulations. Is it the IRS’s role to restrict free speech?

Maliciousness: How else can one interpret the IRS’s effort to audit adoptive families? In a two-year period almost 70 percent of adoptive families were audited (including, by the way, my family) without any indication of fraud or misconduct. By contrast, the normal chance of an audit for a middle-class family is roughly 1 percent. And what did the IRS get for this dragnet — a dragnet that caused real financial hardship to families who’d financially extended themselves to adopt? Not much: ”The IRS disallowed less than 2 percent of the total tax credits claimed.”

Incompetence. Where to begin? The IRS can’t manage the Earned Income Tax Credit, costing taxpayers in excess of $10 billion per year, totaling more than $132 billion over the last decade. That’s real money. What about serving the rest of us? Well, the IRS has already stated that it won’t be able to answer millions of phone calls — a rather basic requirement of serving the public as they struggle through the monstrous tax code. The list could go on, but this is a blog post, not a dissertation. I’ll rest my case for now with annual EITC overpayments roughly equal to Iceland’s GDP and failing to answer the equivalent of phone calls from the entire population of Romania.

Surely it does something well? Of course. No entity is all bad. The IRS can kinda sorta Line dance:

David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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