Pamphlet explains tax system

April 16, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

The glossy pamphlet is either packed with helpful information or is a gross abuse of taxpayer money, depending on your point of view.

As the stragglers filled out their income tax forms this week, one of the pieces of information they could have picked up is an Internal Revenue Service pamphlet titled: "Why do I have to pay taxes?"

The pamphlet lists seven reasons why, ranging from the Constitution to Congress to court decisions.

It also refutes arguments raised over the years by various anti-tax groups that claim the IRS and the tax code are either illegal or illegitimate.

The publication includes a chart that spells out where tax dollars go.

Dom LaPonzina, a spokesman for the IRS, said the agency puts out such publications because it receives calls from people who have heard they don't have to pay taxes because filing a Form 1040 violates the Fifth Amendment.


"The majority of the public recognizes these arguments by these groups as just ways of covering up the fact that these people are greedy," he said.

That assertion does not sit well with some.

"Being called greedy by the IRS is like being called ugly by a frog," said George Getz, a spokesman for the Libertarian Party.

Getz said the Libertarians are not among those who argue that taxes are illegal. They just should be, he said.

Getz said the IRS should not spend money on pamphlets and other public relations material.

LaPonzina said it did not cost much to produce the "Why do I need to pay taxes?" pamphlet. One of more than 90 IRS publications, LaPonzina said it cost $3,200 to print 100,000 copies.

Getz said any amount of money is too much for that sort of thing.

"It's using your money against you," he said. "If they wanted to be honest about it, they'd put together a pamphlet with one line: 'Because, if you don't, you'll get thrown in jail.'"

LaPonzina said it is all part of an effort to help taxpayers understand the tax code and avoid mistakes. He said it improves efficiency; for every dollar the agency spends, it gets back about $15.

"Do they work? Well, we hope they do. We have a very high compliance rate," he said.

Tax deadline day came this year at a time when the IRS - and the system it enforces - is under heightened scrutiny.

High-profile congressional hearings last year detailed horror stories of abuses against taxpayers.

Some have begun calling for the outright elimination of the tax code. About 120 members of Congress have signed a pledge to try to abolish the tax code, according to the 600,000-member National Federation of Independent Business.

Kristin Hogarth, a spokeswoman for the organization, said the group has collected 500,000 signatures for a petition to kill the tax code by 2001.

"We don't think the current tax code can be reformed," she said. "We think the whole thing needs to be scrapped."

Hogarth said the group has not taken a position on what should replace the tax system, but the petition calls for a decision to be made by July 4, 2001.

The Herald-Mail Articles