by Gene Barrett – The beginning of summer is an exciting and sentimental season, especially as we celebrate our nations independence. From the fateful signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 to the great freedoms we enjoy today, Americans are proud of our independence and the values that further our liberty. Slogans such as Don’t Tread on Me or Taxation without Representation are today more relevant than ever. Particularly when it comes to the most powerful government agency with the least oversight — The Internal Revenue Service.
The bravery and conviction of our founding fathers assured that we will not be held back or controlled by overreaching government and that we can speak up against injustice. In light of this great American legacy, we are especially alarmed to learn that the federal government is hoping to impose a new IRS system that will eliminate the freedom of tax filing, and cause enormous economic burdens for most Americans. Ironically, we are talking about unjust tax systems at the time when we remember how taxation without representation inspired our nations fight for independence. The IRS’s current proposal, the so called “Return-Free” program, is anything but free, and will encroach on our most basic freedoms. The IRS has the audacity to present this program as matter of public good. As American and Nobel awarded economist Milton Friedman famously stated, “Many people want the government to protect the consumer. A much more urgent problem is to protect the consumer from the government.”
The proposal by the IRS is currently being considered by Congress, through a bill proposed by U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) which claims to streamline the federal tax return process. But in fact, it will give the IRS the responsibility and the power to handle the filing of every American tax return. No longer will Americans be able or allowed to utilize the expertise of accountants or the countless free filing services offered by corporations, but instead will be forced to pay taxes or accept refunds based on the IRS’s independent calculations. There is an obvious conflict of interest here. The IRS earns it’s stars and stripes when it collects as much in taxes as possible, and with the current administration doing all it can to close the tax gap, the IRS has every incentive to maximize collections and minimize refunds. That means that most Americans will be issued a smaller refund and a bigger bill, and although some can hire lawyers and accountants to fight the IRS, most will not.
Without even touching on the long list of concerns and challenges this proposal will bring, we should consider that the IRS already has a bad record of doing their current job. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates that the IRS answers 1 in 5 tax related questions incorrectly. The GAO also reports that the IRS has failed to correct over 67% of their mistakes going back two years, mistakes ranging from miscalculated refunds, mislabeling of addresses, and the mailing of private information about one taxpayer to the address of another. Those folks that rely on their refunds are still waiting for the IRS to repair their mistakes, and the incidents of fraud and security issues related to the mailing errors are incalculable. The UK tried a similar system a few years ago, and because of the egregious failures, particularly in terms of accuracy and privacy, their government has completely given up on the failed program and is reverting back to an American-like system. The IRS is offering to do all of our taxes for free, even though the program will cost billions to create and the long-term economic consequences will be devastating. The words of Thomas Jefferson ring true even today, “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have.”
This proposal it out of touch with American values and American needs. The fact is that 16 major corporations currently offer absolutely free and expert tax preparation and filing services to a major proportion of the population. The fact that government responds to positive corporate stewardship by proposing to shut it down speaks volumes to the values behind the proposal. This program will also swallow the many accountants and small businesses that exist to prepare American taxes; yet another example of how “Return Free” is both frivolous and dangerous for the American economy.
Big government only wants to get bigger, and the IRS wants to do so on the backs of hardworking American men and women. As stewards of this country, as taxpayers and advocates for responsible and minimal government intervention, we must stand together against this proposal. The “Return Free” program will hurt seniors, veterans, lower and middle income families, entrepreneurs, small and large businesses, and stands against the most fundamental principles of American liberty. Experience and well documented accounts of the IRS’s failures and our belief that expanding government powers does not improve the lives of American citizens can lead us to only one conclusion. The costs of “Return Free” are exponential, and we cannot allow this to happen. As we celebrate our nations independence, let us assure that this threat to our basic liberty is neutralized.