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IRS: Please don't go back to your old ways

By Maxine Shapiro, KERA 90.1 commentator

Dallas, TX – It seems like just yesterday when the IRS was mandated to be kinder and gentler. We the taxpayers held our breath. Today, the same group of people that did the mandating is now calling the IRS a "bunch of wimps." I'm Maxine Shapiro with KERA Marketplace Middays.

Now I doubt if that's a direct quote, but it is how Jeffrey Birnbaum of Fortune Magazine views this recent outcry by Congress to the IRS. And what I view as even more ironic is that it seem to be the same political party that did both the mandating and the crying out - the Republicans.

How can we forget those congressional hearing of 1997 and 1998? The horror stories of just how the IRS was conducting audits...through harassment, abuse, and persecution. In some cases, lives were ruined for many John and Mary Doe's across the country. And these were the little guys. As Sunday's Dallas Morning News suggested, these hearings were politically motivated by the Republican majority. The Morning News simply writes that some experts believe that the Republic Party was out to "discredit the tax system." You know the story - big government, too much taxing, let them eat cake?that kind of thing.

Well, they're definitely singing a different tune today. Congress wants the wrath of the IRS to be felt and heard, from sea to shining sea. Enough of this nice guy approach, they say. We have a war to pay for and a deficit that needs to be fed.

And Fortune quoted two Republicans demanding that the IRS go back to its old ways. Not exactly in those words, but that was the gist of it. The Republican from New York maintains that if "the IRS isn't out there with a club," we the taxpayer can do anything we want. And a Republican from Iowa wants the IRS to "widely broadcast the news that it is on the job."

Guys, come on. I never had the tiniest inkling that the IRS wasn't on the job, let alone that I could do anything I wanted. See, years back, I was randomly audited and it wasn't pretty. I believe I'd still be sitting there holding back my tears, if it hadn't been a Friday evening. So trust me - the perception of the IRS hasn't really changed. Nobody on this side of the fence is calling you a wimp. For KERA Marketplace Middays, I'm Maxine Shapiro.

Marketplace Midday Reports air on KERA 90.1 Monday - Friday at 1:04 PM.