Wednesday, January 11, 2006

In pursuit of the American dream

The National Taxpayer Advocate, Nina E. Olson, issued her annual report today , the highlight of which - if you are a wire service - is red-flagging the Internal Revenue Service for delaying tens or even hundreds of thousands of tax refunds each year because of alleged impropriety on taxpayers' parts. The evil of the delays, Olson writes, is compounded by their disproportionate effect on poor people and failure by the IRS to notify folks they're suspected of being brigands and thieves.

The advocate is charged with outlining the top 20 problems facing American taxpayers each year, and this year she found 21 top nuisances. The top problem is so boring you would fall asleep if I copied it from her report, the No. 2 problem is the above and the No. 3 problem (I remind you, facing the American taxpayer) is "The Cash Economy."

According to the advocate, unreported income in this arena adds up to $100 billion or more each year, and her bizarre logic concludes that self-employed tax cheaters (she saddles this group with the majority of the blame in this category) cost law-abiding taxpayers $2,000 each per year.

Right, so if all cash economy earnings were reported, the IRS would reduce each taxpayer's bill by $2,000? Um, Earth to Ogden?

Besides which, the advocate's Top 21 didn't even throw a bone to the self-employed, who enjoy the advantage of plenty of special treatment from the IRS and our excellent tax code.

If you look through the other 18 "top problems" you'll see the taxpayer advocate is maybe not looking out for the little guy as much as her refund-delay spiel suggests.

Color me unimpressed.

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