by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
[Adam] Markowitz says that he has “never understood the fear of an IRS audit.” Given that he is an IRS-enrolled agent — that is, that he makes his living representing taxpayers in front of the IRS — this should perhaps not be too surprising. Oddly enough, my butcher doesn’t understand vegetarians. Nevertheless, I might be able to help Markowitz out a little — or, at least, to shed some light on why [his] tweet yielded such a cacophony of mockery and indignation, and on why the Democratic Party’s desire to be associated with IRS audits is a terrible political move.
Markowitz suggests that those who are worried about being audited by the IRS should just make sure that they are truthful on their return. “Don’t lie,” he suggests. “How about just don’t cheat on tax returns?” But this, of course, misses the point. I do not “cheat” on my tax return, and I never have. I don’t “lie,” either. But I’m still terrified of the IRS. Why? Because the process of being audited — especially in-person, which this funding will increase — is an absolute nightmare. It’s costly. It’s stressful. It’s invasive. It’s time-consuming. It’s easily manipulated by rogue political actors. And it is all of those things even if the saga concludes with a nice letter saying that everything is in order after all.
One suspects that, in any other circumstance, this would be intuitively obvious. Suppose that, tomorrow, the FBI announced that it intended to begin “auditing” millions of people to find out if they had committed any federal crimes. Would Markowitz and co. respond to this news by shrugging and saying, “don’t lie,” or “if you haven’t broken any laws, who cares?”