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Tax (Criticism) Day

Groups Let the IRS Know What They Think Is Wrong

By Albert B. Crenshaw
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 15, 2005; Page E01

To many people, particularly those who have waited until the last minute to file their tax returns, this week is the low point in their in their relationship with their government.

"The eve before tax day is different from the eve before Christmas Day," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) observed dryly yesterday. "Taxpayers have no choice" about giving.

IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson, left, argues that "service plus enforcement equals compliance." (Robert A. Reeder -- The Washington Post)

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Like a growing number of taxpayers, Grassley got hit with the alternative minimum tax this year. It was only $75, he said, but he had to, in effect, do his taxes twice to figure out that he owed a tax originally intended to apply to only a few rich taxpayers who otherwise were escaping taxation.

But if it is any consolation, today, and all of this week, is the also the height of the season for bashing the tax system and its agent, the Internal Revenue Service.

All during the week, critics including the union that represents IRS workers, a group of former IRS commissioners and an academic organization that studies performance of certain government agencies weighed in with their views of what is wrong with the nation's tax system and with the IRS in particular.

How widespread is the unhappiness? Internal Revenue Commissioner Mark W. Everson said even his dog failed to provide its normally effusive greeting as he arose yesterday. "This time of year, nobody loves you," his wife said.

The main themes cited by critics this week have been:

• The IRS leaves billions of dollars in taxes uncollected.

• The tax law is so complicated not even IRS workers understand it.

• The IRS does not have an adequate budget, and the money it does have is not well spent.

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