Ordinary people complain about the IRS (and Trump)

I am a New York Times junkie (I received a discounted rate which has never expired). The articles are first rate, but sometimes the reader comments are more interesting than the actual articles.

After NYT published its shocking investigative report about the Trump family’s $400 million tax fraud (summarized here), I found the comments harrowing to read. Most were mad not at Trump but at the IRS for not scrutinizing his returns more closely. Here’s one comment about one IRS “victim:”

COMMENT 1: By the end of the main article, I had tears in my eyes. My 88 year old aunt was audited by the IRS because she reported the redemption of a small municipal bond (or something like that) in the wrong year, and had to pay a penalty and was harassed by the IRS. But they turn a blind eye to the vastly undervalued appraisals in the Trump tax returns for the gift and estate taxes. I had to worry about filing the returns and the forms for foreign accounts for my deceased mother two years after she died because it took time for the bank to divide the remaining few thousand dollars between me and my brother – after all, I want to do everything as required by law, even though we owed no tax on those small amounts. I feel so betrayed. Not by the Trumps – they are crooks and there will always be crooks. I feel betrayed by the government and its IRS that are supposed to protect me from the crooks. That are supposed to uphold the idea that all are equal before the law. It is not because of the understaffing of the IRS – they would benefit the most by going after people like the Trumps. They choose not to.

Comment 2: Auditing a poor family.

In the 80’s, I was audited by the IRS. At the time, I was living hand to mouth, my meager salary unable to meet the costs of daycare for my three young children, rent, and the most basic of living expenses. Our apartment had no heat, save for one small gas-fired heater. I cooked meals on a hotplate; I had no stove or oven. We spent winters in our coats, huddled around that little stove. At Christmas, we received a turkey from the Salvation Army, but had no way of cooking it – and our pipes were frozen. There were no presents. I spent my last few bucks on a tree and with scissors, crayons, and some ribbon, we made decorations. We all dressed up in our finest and pretended to have an elegant, candle-lit dinner.

I brought a shoebox of papers (including proof that my children were actually living with me) to the IRS meeting. They went through my finances and found a ten dollar error in my tax form, which I had to pay. The agent apologized for their bringing me in and said that the IRS had audited me because they hadn’t thought it was possible to raise three children on the amount of money I was making.

I read this article about the Trump’s obfuscations and fraud and find it difficult to understand that an IRS that was so doggedly determined to catch a poor person like me could not have seen the unbelievably huge elephant in their “room.”

And BTW, I have used some of those decorations on my trees ever since!

Here’s another comment by an affluent (but not superrich) person:

Echoing the other individual stories. My life was turned upside down by having to pay $1Million in taxes over a four year period from 2002 to 2006 on short term capital gains. It was a million I did not have at the time. I basically worked for nothing for four years. The IRS was all over me for those four years, and then a few years later tried to claim I still owed $50,000+. Fortunately, I saved all my records and receipts. But then I read this report and I feel only anger towards the Treasury Department for not enforcing our laws, and at Congress for saying the wealthy are paying too much in taxes and passing the latest tax cut bill which has resulted in tremendous shortfalls in our federal budget. Remind me once again why we should pay federal taxes if our leaders are not paying taxes, please.

Another one:

After carefully digesting this incredible fact-finding journalism, new headline suggestion: Donald Trump is a shyster, criminal, tax-evading fraud.

What I don’t understand is how the trump family has evaded serious investigation by the IRS — for decades! There truly are different rules for the wealthy vs the rest of us tax-paying peons.

I’m self-employed and diligently pay my quarterly taxes, as required by law. Yesterday, I received a letter from the IRS detailing my 2017 payments and saying I still owed nearly $7000 plus penalties and interest. Problem is, 2 of my payments were not reflected in the letter. I jumped online to my bank and found the 2 payments and dates they were cashed by IRS (complete with photos of checks, front and back). Nearly 2 hours on the phone with IRS to learn they mistakenly applied those payments to 2018, not 2017, although checks clearly indicated 2017 and were accompanied by official IRS payment paperwork. IRS employee says “will take up to 6 weeks to make correction & I still need to pay interest for late payment” –even though payments were made on time!

It baffles me how the IRS will jump on the “little guy” like me, yet millions owed by the likes of trump are ignored. The system IS rigged towards the “wealthy” & against the rest of us. Sickening!

Two almost self-evident comments.

First, according to the tax experts interviewed by the NYT reporters, all of this fraud fell outside of the statute of limitations, so essentially the Trump family “got away with murder.”

Second, dozens of commenters stated that as a rule Republicans have underfunded the IRS; indeed, last year’s Trump budget cut its budget even further.

Finally, today’s Paul Krugman’s economics column started with a shocker even for news junkies:

The 2017 tax cut has received pretty bad press, and rightly so. Its proponents made big promises about soaring investment and wages, and also assured everyone that it would pay for itself; none of that has happened.

Yet coverage actually hasn’t been negative enough. The story you mostly read runs something like this: The tax cut has caused corporations to bring some money home, but they’ve used it for stock buybacks rather than to raise wages, and the boost to growth has been modest. That doesn’t sound great, but it’s still better than the reality: No money has, in fact, been brought home, and the tax cut has probably reduced national income. Indeed, at least 90 percent of Americans will end up poorer thanks to that cut.

Even more interesting were the anecdotes from commenters about their estimated tax bills. Here’s a sample from a New Yorker:

I bought this year’s Turbo Tax 2018 and plugged my 2018 numbers in. I also plugged my 2018 numbers into last year’s Turbo Tax 2017, just to see what happens. Because I’m a modest earner with hefty real-estate taxes living in a state with a high income tax, my total federal income tax on my 2018 earnings was a full 75% higher (yes, that says 75% higher) under the 2018 rules than it would have been under the 2017 rules. Again, I’m squarely middle-class, with relatively simple taxes except that I itemize my deductions. So can we please stop talking about Trump’s tax cuts? Perhaps Trump got a tax cut, but many of us got exactly the opposite.

Actually I have commented several times on NYT articles. But I used a pseudonym, so you’ll never know it’s me!




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