The Internal Revenue Service – America’s Awkward Uncle - Hero Image
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The Internal Revenue Service: America's Awkward Uncle

US History
US History
April 1, 2023
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The time of the year once again approaches, that time in April where you must file your State and Federal Income Tax Returns or visit the Pain Monster. Sadly, the Pain Monster, were it a real option would likely be everyone’s preference.

The forms suck, you are never 100% certain you didn’t accidentally commit a felony, and it's always a chance you have to pay MORE money to the government. Fun! But why do we get to enjoy this annual trip to accounting camp?

First, it's important to remember that taxes, theft or not, are used by the government to buy things and pay people. As a Marine, the majority of my adult career has been paid for by the taxpayer. (Which is why it's super weird that I have to pay taxes on the tax money I’m paid with, but don’t worry, you’re getting fair market value for my services.)

Without voluntary compliance with the US Tax Code, the government wouldn’t even be able to afford the “Closed” signs they would have to put on federal buildings.

So, it is necessary. Knowing that, however, is a far cry from the way they do business making a whole lot of sense. There are a few things to know which will bring this sadly comical agency into sharper focus.

They are Old
That’s not a crack on the agency, it is a true statement. The employee pool at the IRS is predominantly people 50 years or more of age. Young people aren’t replacing staff at the needed rate to keep the service in fresh, enthusiastic people. Between the rate of retirement and the constant reduction in their operating budget, it’s a wonder the whole department isn’t two guys sharing a TI-82 and a No2 pencil.

They Do not Write Tax Law
Every time you’re reading a new piece of tax law, trying to decide what unholy combination of meth and brain damage caused the tax code to be written this way, it can be an overwhelming experience.

Before sending your check in covered in mustard (something which has really happened) remember that it's Congress who writes the laws. I know, shocking, isn’t it? Not only is Congress writing the tax laws, but they write a LOT of them. During a recent year in which the IRS was operating without a director, over 500 new tax laws were written and enacted, leaving the agency struggling to keep pace.

Lack of Return Free Filing
Something to consider is WHY the IRS needs your W-2, bank statements, and filling calculations. Your employer already sends them these documents automatically, as does the bank. Why are you doubling this effort?

Not to mention the fact that the US tax system is best summed up by Adam Conover. Imagine ordering a pizza. The pizza arrives albeit late half the time, and the delivery driver asks you what you think you owe. You calculate toppings and cheese percentage to sauce and come up with a number. If you’re wrong, you go to prison.

Instead of that nonsense, Return Free Filing would work like this; each tax year the IRS would send you a postcard stating whether you owe money, or how much of a return you were receiving.

If you had any special adjustments they could be entered into a form or two and sent back, otherwise the check just goes out. Simple to execute, and dramatically reduces the cost for you and for the government. Why isn’t this the standard?


Tax prep companies with mall kiosks or software to sell spend a great deal of money on lobbying to ensure return free filing doesn’t happen, and they stay in business.

All this isn’t to say the IRS doesn’t have its own issues. Remember that aging employee base? Without constant infusions of new ideas and updated understandings of how to improve efficiency, the agency slips further into being a relic out of touch with reality.

Don’t believe me? They have a Star Trek themed training video (probably on VHS) which will absolutely cure insomnia like getting kicked in the head by a mule made of Ambien and bricks. Seriously. So until we get the option to visit the Pain Monster, the best we can manage is to harass our local, state, and federal representatives for change… And make sure we file on time.

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