Morality and the IRS; Americans Respect the Law When the Law Is Respectable

Article excerpt

Byline: Richard W. Rahn, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Would you consider taking a job with a government agency that:

* Unnecessarily strikes fear into the hearts of tens of millions of your fellow citizens, causing such anguish and despair that some are driven to suicide each year.

*Requires citizens to know 10 million words of rules and regulations because the failure to do so may result in draconian fines and even jail, while at the same time no one in the agency has a full understanding of all the rules and regulations it requires others to know.

Routinely ignores the constitutional protections against self-incrimination and the right to the presumption of innocence.

* Seizes the assets of citizens without obtaining court judgments.

* Penalizes marriage.

* Discriminates against many of the nation's most productive citizens.

* Destroys incentives to work, save and invest, and undermines job creation.

* Routinely protects agency personnel who have engaged in citizen intimidation, misrepresentation or worse?

No, I am not referring to the Nazi SS or the Soviet KGB, but the IRS, which is guilty of all of the above and more.

It is, of course, true that no one loves the tax collector and that taxes are the price we pay for a civil society. But, as with anything else, there are proper and improper taxes and tax collection procedures and methods. According to news accounts, attacks and threats against IRS personnel are rising, and unfortunately, this trend is likely to continue until there is a fundamental change in our tax laws and collection methods. People who do not have access to the media and cannot afford expensive tax lawyers sometimes reach such a level of frustration with the IRS that they resort to violent or irrational behavior. IRS officials and workers will say the tax code is not their fault - it is the fault of Congress - and they are only doing their jobs.

It is unambiguously true that the tax code and IRS are creatures of Congress, with all of its self-dealing, corruption, ignorance and incompetence. But it also is true, and was made explicit at the Nuremberg trials, that those who carry out orders that they know to be wrong or should know to be wrong are not absolved of personal responsibility.

The county tax collector who is responsible for the collection of property taxes is engaged in a necessary activity because it is through his or her efforts that the local police, fire departments and schools are funded. In most places, all pay the same tax rate, with those having more expensive properties paying proportionally more and vice versa. The tax, and how it is applied, is readily understood by most people. Even though many may complain about the tax rate, the tax itself is generally considered fair.

Similarly, those who work in a state sales-tax collection office are administering a tax whose proceeds go for purposes that are generally understood - schools, roads, parks, etc. …