Reports: Complexity of Tax Code, Enforcement Causes Most Plights

By Neese, Terry | THE JOURNAL RECORD, September 18, 2000 | Go to article overview

Reports: Complexity of Tax Code, Enforcement Causes Most Plights


Neese, Terry, THE JOURNAL RECORD


Did you hear about Venus Williams, the U.S. Open tennis winner, and President Clinton? The president phoned her to congratulate her on her win and the $800,000 victory check she received. Guess what she said to him after he congratulated her? "Can you lower my taxes," she asked? Clinton responded that he couldn't do that right now.

At about the same time, Erin Brockovich (played in the film by actress Julia Roberts), the woman who tried to protect a town's water supply from a local utility that had supposedly contaminated it, also had taxes on her mind.

Brockovich received $2 million for her campaign to expose the problem. She recently told an audience in Pittsburgh that she got the $2 million; however, the Internal Revenue Service took $1.1 million. She said she wished she had better information about tax loopholes.

The General Accounting Office released a new report showing that complexity of the tax code and the IRS' emphasis on enforcement of the law, rather than prevention of taxpayer error, contributes heavily to frequent tax headaches suffered by the nation's small businesses and individuals.

The GAO's findings were drawn from surveys representative of about 400,000 small businesses as well as the results of interviews with IRS officials and representatives of the small business community. The report comes as the IRS is undergoing a major reorganization into four operating divisions, including the SB/SE division, which will focus on taxpayer education, assistance and specialized account services. It also will reconfigure agency compliance and collection efforts geared to small businesses. The reorganization is the most significant reform effort undertaken by the IRS in more than 50 years.

U.S. Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., said, "The IRS faces a big challenge in their reorganization efforts.

But the GAO's review demonstrates that such an overhaul is essential. Small businesses are caught between a rock and a hard place, with limited resources to help them comply with the law. No sector of taxpayers has a greater need for practical, customer- friendly assistance to help avoid tax problems before they occur."

According to the IRS, small businesses are more likely than other segments of the taxpayer population to have problems complying with tax laws. …

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