It's always nice to see someone with a bit of knowledge slap down a fanboi.
60K a year is extremely poor, compared to any private sector group that small who brought in that much money. It's ridiculously poor.
BTW - Thanks for the post. You prompted me to go back and look at the numbers so I could do a quick calculation to illustrate how poor their pay was. I actually went back over some of my emails from when I was employed to look at the project results.
In fact, what I stated was in error. Those people didn't bring in as much money as I thought.
When I actually ran the numbers, I found that spreading the project results equally over time and the number of participants, those folks actually netted the government just under $50M per year per person.
Despite that error, I stand by my original statement. If your job brings in almost $50 million dollars per year (that would NOT have come in if you weren't on the job) and you're paid $60K (plus benefits, so call it $100K) per year, you are ridiculously underpaid.
Pretty much all reasonably professional government jobs are underpaid but that particular example was one of the two worst I've ever seen.
As for sympathy, everything is relative. Anyone, no matter their earnings, should understand the basic injustice being done to an employee who brings the organization $50M a year and gets pay that low. If you pointed out a way to save your employer $50M/year, even though you're just a $9/hr employee, wouldn't you expect a hell of a bonus?
If you don't, then you're willing to accept a level of self-defeating greed from your employer that staggers the imagination.
It's not a belief, but rather, a fact. You haven't addressed the issue of why you don't consider taxation to be theft. In what manner is it fundamentally different from theft?
1) It is involuntary -
2) It's not in exchange for services. If you don't use the services that taxation pays for, you still have to pay the taxes.
... I could go on but I'd rather address your specific arguments than try to guess at what they are.
Since you ask nicely, I suppose an answer is only polite.
I believe taxes are fundamentally different from theft because people, as a whole, are social animals who have rules about how to get along. Some call it a social contract, some call it common courtesy; the language is unimportant. The point is, we live in close proximity and get along with each other.
In order to do that without everyone just living on their own plot of land and being totally self-sufficient (which has never been the way tribes of any size existed), we divide labor and exchange our labor and goods with each other. This doesn't require a lot of complex rules but it does require a few.
Inevitably, there will be disputes about what's right and wrong. There will be times when some recognized authority must mediate. In a small tribe that might be the elders.
Also inevitably, because people are not just social but also occasionally covetous and violent, there will be times when groups come together and engage in the wholesale rejection of societal norms. They decide to live by violence, the threat of it, and plunder instead of societal norms. That recognized authority will then be called upon to marshall the collective resources of the group to restore order.
Now, scale that up to over 300 million people. Local tribal elders cannot handle, on a purely voluntary basis, the volume of problems that will arise. Some sort of organized group of folks will need to spend all their time working on, at minimum, the most basic tasks of staffing a justice system and providing for the common defense.
Those administrators are called "government". Courts and some sort of minimal military are administered by that government.
In short, we need a government. For one to exist, it must be paid for.
No one appreciates the need of a government until they personally need it, yet it can't exist without general contributions from everyone. People won't give to it like a charity, so it levies taxes.
Thus, taxes really are voluntary. Most people prefer paying taxes to the alternative which is anarchy. Nobody likes paying them but they recognize the necessity.
Also, taxes really are paid in exchange for something of value. Think of it as insurance; you pay your taxes and what you get is a court system and a defensive collective that will serve the common good when the need arises.
Since taxes need to be a shared burden or they don't work right, some sort of enforcement mechanism for bringing them in is required. Yes, that implies force (of some sort) used on those outliers who don't want to help out.
I find none of this objectionable or equivalent to theft. I find it merely the natural price of living in close proximity to others.
Now, I would not strongly dispute that taxes go to wasteful, unnecessary things. I would not argue with someone who says that taxes above a certain level necessary to sustain a minimal government are theft. That is an argument merely about where to draw the line.
But I do not accept that those initial taxes that pay for the most basic administration of a society are theft. They are, instead, self-evidently necessary, a state that removes them from any reasonable definition of theft.
...It's in our animal nature...
Indeed it is. I agree completely.
Unfortunately, I consider that our animal nature is a given that cannot be changed sufficiently to make governments (and therefore taxes) unncessary. Everyone should try but most efforts will fail. Many millennia of evolution have contributed to that nature and it will not fundamentally change for a long, long time.
At least, not before Star Trek replicators come along and eliminate all want. Even then, there will be violent outliers who must be addressed through a central authority...and we're back to government and taxes.
Until then, all I can do is point out various inconsistencies,,,
Good. Keep it up. People who observe and ask questions frequently spur others to constructive action. Not having the answers doesn't make your viewpoint less valid.
I'm not OK with a little theft either. I'm just at the unsatisfactory point wherein I know the current system sucks and is fundamentally flawed but I don't have any better solutions.
If you believe that all taxes are theft and you're not OK with any of that theft, then you must also believe that government is not necessary. After all, if it's not paid for, it won't exist.
There are folks with similar beliefs. Google for them and you'll find people who argue for radically small-scale human social groups that govern by consensus without formal mechanisms.
I think you'll find the record of success of such groups is pretty abysmal but you're clearly not alone in your feelings. There are people who have been there and done that.
Read up on them. You may find common ground with people who will become lifelong friends. Or you may be a bit disillusioned. Or maybe a bit of both. Whatever the outcome, don't just sit still in a state of "I don't have any better solutions"; that's not satisfying at all.
There is a special place in Hell for all tax collectors.
I look forward to shaking hands with Matthew the Apostle when I get there.
Could you be fired with no cause whatsoever?
During the first year of employment, yes. By then, management dumps the hiring mistakes. Yes, some people develop problems later, unfortunately.
Was doing your job well absolutely central to your employment continuing, or were you civil service?
Yes to both. Why on earth would you think the two questions are in opposition? Firing a civil service employee simply requires telling them what they're doing wrong, giving them a chance to fix it, and then firing them.
Most bosses are too busy dealing with underfunded programs to take time to fire people since the process is required to be fair and fairness takes time. However, it was *common* for underperforming employees to be moved to less-demanding jobs.
Did you have to be profitable to the IRS to stay employed?.
The federal government is not a for-profit business, so no. However, I spent a great deal of time as a Revenue Officer. We used to joke that if we were compensated based on our profitability to the government the same way people are compensated in private industry, we'd all have 1000-square-foot offices, 3 assistants, and 7-figure incomes.
How many times would you be friendly and smile as the general public dealt with you?
Me? 100% of the time. I got sent to speak to conferences and teach seminars specifically because the degree to which I loved my job was both obvious and infectious. (Well, I'd say that was true for all but a half-dozen years of my career. There are bad times in all jobs.)
I got customer service kudos more numerous than I can remember, from every customer I served. Hell, when I first started as a low-level paper-processing clerk, I got a plaque from a group of Revenue Agents just because I actually paid attention to making them feel welcome as I processed a few boxes of paper that they needed expedited. (It was a big-dollar case and they were running up against statutory deadlines.)
I once lived in a hotel, training new people, for 7 months. An exec with the hotel tried to recruit me. He said my aptitude for customer service was "off the charts".
OK, I think on this question I'm a bit of an exception. I take your point.
Lemme throw you a bone: I have observed shit that drives me crazy. My pet peeve: If you're on break and can't serve the customers, get the hell out of their sight!
Were you ever concerned that you might be let go because your employer was concerned that they could no longer give you raises, so they'll kick you out before you can leave? Do you need to be worried that you're past 50 and your employer may find a way to ditch you for a 20-something?
No and no.
Do you have to worry that your federal pension will mysteriously disappear, or be suddenly reduced?
Actually, yes. There are political animals out there who translate their irrational hatred of all federal employees into various actions, including proposals to screw over our pensions. Some of those political animals are in Congress. Some troll message boards.
Sorry, public service *is* a sweet gig compared to the private sector. You may pay the price in reduced salary, but I'll stack up my job pressures against what yours were any day of the week.
We all make those decisions based on our own hierarchy of needs. I signed on knowing I'd get 3 decades of substandard pay in exchange for reasonable work rules and benefits.
If you prefer to work in a crappier environment under pressures that have an outsized impact on your happiness while being paid more - that's your choice.
Almost no one has a "sweet gig." I worked for a living. So do you. We may be different but we're more similar than you might think.
I say you are paid $hill...
I'm retired and could use some extra income. What's involved in this $hill business and how much does it pay?
Is this supposed to be serious?
...you are telling me that this lady just needed the ever-so-wise-business-consulting of the IRS to learn that she didn't have a viable business anymore?
Don't trust me. Ask your CPA. It's a common phenomena that people will become emotionally invested in a business to the point that they simply can't shut it down.
Any CPA can tell you stories of clients who have one successful business and one unsuccessful business. The unsuccessful one, inevitably, is built around some passion the owner has. Time after time after time, I've seen (and all CPAs with a few years of experience have seen) people in that position sell the successful business so they can spend all their time working on the business that has captured their heart, even when any disinterested observer can easily tell that the remaining business is *never* going to work.
I've put a few people out of business. None of them was particularly angry at me. I'd say about half thanked me. Their businesses were dead already but they just couldn't bring themselves to shut it down and move on with their lives. I made that decision for them and, as is the case the overwhelming majority of the time when the IRS shuts down a business, what those taxpayers felt more than anything else was simple relief.
Give me a break! Seriously, go fuck yourself with that nonsense. There is zero chance that your story is true because anyone who knows anything knows the IRS doesn't collect taxes from business unless the business is profitable.
You really don't know much about how businesses fail and how that impacts taxes, do you?
No, the IRS cannot collect taxes from businesses that are not profitable. Obviously.
However, when a business is in such bad shape that they aren't paying their 941 taxes, every day they remain in business means the debt to the IRS grows. The IRS shuts down businesses to stop the accrual of even more debt.
As perverse as it sounds, when the IRS shuts down a business it is actually saving that business money in that the IRS prevents the business from continuing to rack up delinquent taxes. When you talk to your CPA about people who sell good businesses to work on lousy (family or other emotionally-impactful) businesses, ask them to explain it to you. It's generally referred to as a "seizure to prevent pyramiding."
Trust me, we don't need the IRS expertise in this area.
Some people do. That's why the IRS conducts small business seminars. That's why Revenue Officers will work with businesses that owe taxes to help them make some hard decisions and return to profitability so they can start paying their taxes timely, again.
You'd be surprised how many people that own a business know their business but don't know anything about business. For those people, a visit from the right IRS Revenue Officer can be a godsend. Uncomfortable, but ultimately a godsend.
...an engine of theft, i.e. taking people's money without them necessarily wanting to give it to you, with the threat of violence and jail time if they don't comply.
By that definition, all taxes are theft. None can be collected, period, without violating basic human rights.
I find that position sufficiently extreme that I reject it outright. Governments must be able to collect some taxes.
We can all agree that the current system could be improved but to simply wave your hands and pronounce all taxes to be theft is not, by any stretch, a workable position. Are you really arguing that anarchy, the inevitable result of all government being denied the ability to collect any taxes until that government ceases to exist, is a viable social system?
Or are you saying that you'd be OK with a little theft, just enough to support the basic functions of government, thus allowing your to maintain your righteous hate of all evil government entities while still enjoying basic government services like a common defense and a court system? If that's your position, you must work up quite a sweat with all those moral and ethical contortions you've been practicing.
You do agree that NSA deserves to be hated right?
No. I can't hate an entire agency that has at least some legitimate purpose.
I'll save my vitriol (hate is something I don't have time for) for the individuals who have made decisions and given orders to pervert the function of that agency. I think by now it's clear there are a few high-ranking people at the NSA who have violated their oaths and deserve jail time. Cut out that cancer (send them to jail) and the body of the agency will heal itself.
Incidentally, I feel the same way about the IRS. There have been a few (very few) folks who have done some very bad things at that agency. They should be in jail.
The IRS does police its own with some vigor. I've seen people walked out in handcuffs on more than one occasion. However, these were mostly low-level types who got caught for things like selling personal information to private investigators. The executives who make truly stupid, evil decisions always seem to skate. There aren't nearly as many of those executives at the IRS as many people seem to believe...but one is still too many and I hate seeing them drop in, do their damage, then go to work as a lobbyist. It's happened a few times I can remember.
I was confused by your post until you said "lower income areas".
Tax prep services in lower income areas are often hives of scum and villiany, preparing thousands of returns falsely claiming refundable credits. Fraud is rampant in that business.
While I feel pretty sure your details are exaggerated for color, those places do get raided. I've been fortunate enough to be on a couple of those raids.
The worst part of the way those guys work is that their fraud ultimately falls on their customers who must pay back the refunded credits (that were usually stolen by the tax preparer, anyway) along with massive penalties.
The highest-percentage-likely explanation for the situation you've outlined is the only thing that brings out the IRS in that kind of force to that kind of business. If that's the really the case, that mom and pop and daughter tax service deserve whatever happens to them.
Oddly enough, we agree about some of the big issues. I'd love to see the tax system move fundamentally away from income towards transactions.
Unfortunately, there's not much point in discussing it with you.
When a system is setup to operate in an immoral way (As I assert the IRS is,...
It's been a long time since I was in school on a debate team but I've never forgotten that whoever defines the terms usually wins. You define the job that IRS does and the statutes it enforces as evil. Period.
If, for the sake of this discussion, we accept that definition, then it is of course true that everything the agency does is evil, I've done evil, and every interaction I've had with taxpayers has resulted in me taking action the founders would reject.
To work oneself into a murderous frenzy and live with the consequences of your own hate, it's necessary to convince yourself that the other guy is evil. Where the IRS is concerned, you've accomplished that. Nothing I can say will change your mind.
Good luck in your efforts to revise our tax laws. I agree with much of your goals and, less fervently (obviously) with much of your way of thinking. It would not, however, be productive to continue a conversation with someone who simply dismisses everything I say because they believe I'm evil.
No nuance. Just, in your words and typography, "PURE EVIL". That's not something to which a cogent response is possible.
Just out of curiosity, who would stand up for you [the IRS]? It's certainly hard for me to imagine any situation where the IRS is in any way helpful or positive. I mean, is there anybody who can say, "My wife left me, she kicked me out of my house, and I got fired just before Christmas -- but the compassionate IRS agent understood and was helpfully able to forgive my debt"? I'm guessing not.
You would, apparently, be surprised.
I have personally recommended the forgiveness or suspension of debt for hundreds of people. It happens hundreds of times a day.
Are you due a big refund that's been held up for unknown reasons but you've got a huge medical bill or you're about to lose your house? I've seen case workers move heaven and earth to process transactions and get refund checks manually cut and personally delivered to people in need.
Your post is near the bottom of the list, so I'll just put this here. I've seen a bunch of responses from people who had problems. That's to be expected. The tax system is complex and screwups happen.
But I am shocked that so few people understand that the IRS reaches out to communities and prepares tax returns for free, forgives or suspends debts when people are in a bad way, and sometimes goes to extraordinary lengths to use their great power to alleviate suffering.
I could go on and on. I have, already, up-thread. But I get the feeling I'll never make a dent.
Maybe the IRS needs a better PR department more than it needs anything else.
OK, that was a joke. The truth is that the IRS does lots of wonderful things for people but is prohibited by law from talking about them. We have Disclosure Officers whose entire job is making sure nobody talks about anything they're not supposed to. We're simply not allowed to adequately defend ourselves when we're attacked in the press; it's illegal to do so.
Ultimately, then, it's the IRS that's screwed when it comes to public perception and there's nothing they can do about it.
No wonder morale is non-existent. As proud as I am of my service to my country, I'm actually glad I've retired.
In order for the IRS to function, it must violate the most basic Constitutional rights of millions of Americans (who are no longer secure in their effects and papers, and who are presumed guilty)
You have an excellent point. The problem with being secure in their effects and papers is subordinate to the presumption of guilt, so "effects and papers" is not a productive course of study.
The presumption of guilt, though, is a biggie. (Fix that and the "effects and papers" problem goes away.) Many folks who work at the IRS recognize that the presumption of innocence is turned on its head by our current tax administration system. They are not comfortable with it.
We recognize that this is the case in pretty much every country, though. The alternative is for the government to gather so much intelligence on the financial dealings of every citizen that they can make a case against anyone for tax fraud even without the cooperation of the citizen. We don't want that. That would be far more generally intrusive and have a greater chilling effect on freedom than the way things work now.
Of course, it is possible. There are people guilty of tax fraud who refuse to cooperate with their investigations. Every bit of evidence must be tracked down by the Revenue Agents, Revenue Officers, and Special Agents who work those cases. They are *extremely* expensive and difficult to make.
As a result, most tax cheats are not treated as suspects who must be assumed to be innocent. They are treated like parties to a civil contract who screwed up.
What middle course do you propose? I'm open to radical simplification of a highly progressive income tax combined with a refundable credit for poverty-level incomes. Add to that certain consumption taxes (like a VAT) and there may be a system that's simpler to administer, harder to game, and less oppressive to the people.
Or maybe I'm full of it. Again, what course do you propose?
There is simply no compatibility between the IRS and a free people and our Constitution, nor is there any way for a civilized and moral person to work for the IRS.
That's just silly. There has to be a way to collect whatever taxes are going to be collected so the existence of a tax collection agency is not incompatible with freedom and the Constitution. Now, we may both agree that the current system is substandard so let's fix it. But saying that just having a tax collection agency is incompatible with freedom and the Constitution is a ridiculous overstatement.
Further, if it's OK to collect taxes at all, then civilized and moral people may certainly work at the agency that does that work without feeling in the least bit ashamed.
Your final sentence was so hyperbolic as to render the entire rest of your post suspect. Please don't do that. You actually had a good point or two.
You screwed up and paid a price for your mistake. And you blame the IRS?
Interesting. Dumb, but interesting. And a really tough way to learn that investing in things you don't understand can cost you a bundle.
But I don't see any reason for the IRS to shoulder any of that blame.