Live from Music Row, Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Patrick Hedger, Executive Director of the Taxpayer Protection Alliance, to the newsmaker line to talk about how the IRS is behind on American tax returns and the need for them to redefine their focus.
Leahy: We are joined on our newsmaker line by Patrick Hedger, the Executive Director of the Taxpayer Protection Alliance. Patrick, good morning.
Hedger: Hey, good morning.
Leahy: We hear there’s a bit of skullduggery going on at the IRS. Tell us about it.
Hedger: Oh, my gosh. Where do you even begin? The IRS is an agency that is totally off the rails this time. They are so backed up on American tax returns that they are going to be giving people five percent interest payments on top of the tax return that they are owed, which is actually kind of a nice change because, for the most part, your tax return is an interest-free loan to the government.
But most people really just need that cash right now at a time with record-high gas prices. And it’s just such a shame that the IRS is so behind on its core functions. But the big problem we have is that Congress is trying to get the IRS to do more.
They’re trying to make the IRS do your taxes for you. Have the IRS enforce all sorts of new taxes like investment taxes and federal property taxes. We need to get the IRS back on its core mission before we start talking about them doing anything else.
Leahy: How can we do that?
Hedger: Yeah, that’s a great point. The first thing we need to do is get Congress focused. Because Congress is continuously proposing for the IRS to do all sorts of things.
One of the main reasons the IRS is so backed up right now is because during the pandemic, the IRS was in charge of distributing all those stimulus payments, and that is what set the IRS so behind.
They really need to refocus the IRS on the core mission of tax enforcement and not create new taxes like a wealth tax or an investment tax that would backlog the IRS even further and make their job even harder.
Leahy: Roger Simon, our all-star panelist and senior editor at The Epoch Times, is in-studio and has a question for you.
Simon: Yes. Wouldn’t it be great if they made Steve Forbes head of the IRS?
Hedger: Oh, gosh, yeah. I mean, if we’re dreaming that big, why don’t we talk about significantly sizing down the IRS and the amount of taxes Americans owe in general? The best thing we ought to do is really simplify the tax code. That’s another reason why the IRS is so behind, because the taxes in this country are so onerous.
Simon: And impossible for the average citizen to figure out. What we have is a system where we enrich accountants and lawyers and the average citizen just gets completely bamboozled. The IRS has more power than any other arm of the government.
Hedger: Yes, absolutely. The big problem we have ultimately boils back to Congress. Any problem you have with an administrative agency or law enforcement agency like the IRS boils down to the fact that Congress is not doing its job.
And what Congress has done over the past century, really, is spend through the tax code. What I mean by that is, instead of actually cutting a check for the things the government wants to see, they create all these different tax incentives and tax penalties to try and micromanage the economy.
And all of that gets managed mostly through the IRS. And that’s what creates that tax complexity that most Americans are then forced to rely on outside tax preparers to be able to do their taxes.
Simon: It comes down to enriching their supporters.
Hedger: Yeah, absolutely. There are all sorts of waste, fraud, and abuse that are contained within the tax code, and all sorts of economic distortions that are really unhealthy. And those are all the things that make it so that you have to use software to be able to file your taxes every year.
Leahy: Now, tell us a little bit about the Taxpayer Protection Alliance. What’s the website? How long you’ve been with them? How did you get involved in this, Patrick?
Hedger: Yeah, absolutely. So I’ve been working in government accountability and free-market economic policy my entire career. My father was a small business manufacturer, so I heard about it every night at the dinner table. What he was facing, he was never worried about his competitors. He was worried about the government.
So I’ve been with the Taxpayers Protection Alliance for the better part of the last two years, and it’s an organization that is dedicated to government accountability, limited government, and free markets. And we’re looking out for taxpayers. We’re a taxpayer and consumer watchdog group based in D.C.
Leahy: So, Patrick, you talked about the duties of Congress here to fix this. Congress under the Democratic leadership doesn’t seem to be doing anything to rein in the IRS. Do you think if the Republicans take over the House in January, it’ll be a different story?
Hedger: Yeah, I think so. And something that’s flown under the radar because Democrats have controlled Congress is the fact that the IRS has been leaking private tax information to Pro Publica, which is an investigative journalism outfit, but they’ve been leaking tax data that shows how much wealthy people and wealthy corporations are paying in taxes.
But it doesn’t actually show any wrongdoing. It shows that these people have very good accountants. So you’ve got fake whistleblowers throughout the IRS that are leaking tax documents to the public to try and advance progressive policy.
This is really reminiscent of what we saw back in 2014 and 2015 with the IRS targeting conservative nonprofits and conservative donors.
Leahy: Isn’t that the natural state of being with the IRS, to target conservatives?
Hedger: The problem is that it’s a major federal bureaucracy. And you look at the composition of the folks that are line-staffing these bureaucracies in Washington, D.C. They’re not friends of limited government. They depend on limited government.
And so, yeah, that’s another reason why the IRS needs to be, if anything, have its mission, refocused and downsized. And I hope that conservatives, when they take back Congress, at least one of the chambers of Congress will begin to shine a little bit of light on that.
Simon: How are they really going to do that, though? Because they don’t have the power. I mean, they have some kind of symbolic power, but basically the executive financial veto, everything that they try.
Hedger: Yeah, it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s about keeping the drumbeat up and ensuring that when Republicans take Congress, they don’t do a lot of the same.
We’ve seen it over the years that when Republicans take Congress, they talk a big game, but they end up spending a lot of money too, and creating all sorts of new tax carve-outs as well.
Simon: They’re all victims of the same system in which their big donors are paying them for tax advantages. Republicans and Democrats, it’s the same system.
Hedger: Absolutely. That’s one thing we try to expose. And when members of Congress and when agencies are trying to tip the scales of government, tip the scales of the economy in favor of one company or another, we can’t be pro-business. We’ve got to be pro-market.
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “IRS Building” by Shashi Bellamkonda. CC BY 2.0.