The people who work at the IRS can be proud to do an important job. They’re the “accounts receivable” department for the federal government, and whether you think we need more government or less, we should collect the revenue to finance it as effectively as possible. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has already stated that the incoming administration’s ban on new government hiring shouldn’t apply to the IRS — perhaps because he’s seen the research showing every dollar invested in tax enforcement yields seven dollars in tax. (If you could spend one dollar to make seven, you might do it all day long!)
At the same time, IRS staffers understand the work they do isn’t especially popular. As Louis XIV’s Finance Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert once said, “the art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to procure the largest quantity of feathers with the least possible amount of hissing.” So you could say the IRS is similarly looking out for ways to boost the plucking while minimizing the hissing.
Towards that end, the IRS collections division has engaged the Pacific Consulting Group to send a “Customer Satisfaction Survey” (Form 13257-A, revised April, 2016) to a random group of taxpayers who have gone through the collections process. It included the usual collection of questions you would expect from a government survey, like rating how much you agree with statements like, “I received an adequate description of the collection process,” and “I was treated with respect during the collection process.” But we thought there were a few more questions that might have made sense — like these:
“Did you feel violated when agents picked you up by the feet to shake the change out of your pockets?”
“Did the Revenue Officer put the cushions back on the couch after searching for spare quarters that might have fallen between them?”
“What would you have done with that money if you didn’t have to pay your taxes?”
“If you could tell the government exactly how to spend your tax dollars, what would you tell them?”
“Does the tax code make any more sense to you than it does to us?”
“Be honest . . . you’d rather give the money to us than to the sales tax goons, amirite?”
“When the robots finally take over, how do you think we should tax them?”
“Pinch yourself. Does it hurt? If so, consult IRS Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses.”
“You seem nice . . . what are you doing next Thursday?”
“What’s your favorite BBQ joint? (Asking for a friend.)
Here’s another question they should ask, but probably never will. “Do you have a plan in place to pay less tax so you don’t get caught up in collections in the first place?” If not, call us, and see if we can silence some of the hissing!