Friday, January 19, 2007

IRS/Govt. practices selective enforcment

I ran across this story on the back page of my local newspaper, tucked away in the lower right-hand corner of the business section. The only reason I saw it at all was that the term “bureaucratic bungling” happened to catch my eye. In fact, the only reason I paid this much scrutiny to this meager (one page) attempt at business reporting was because I was searching to see if the editor had run a press release that I had sent them for a training initiative I’ve been working on, in Lewiston/Auburn. Not able to find it anywhere in local news, I thought there might be an outside chance it might make the business page, due to business-centered nature of our program.

The paper, probably in an attempt to fill some copy space (heck, they ran my 250-word press release, in its entirety, above the fold), grabbed this Newhouse News Service wire story and “buried” it. As hard as I’ve worked to get my current training initiative off the ground, in my opinion, this brazen bureaucratic snafu is more newsworthy than a local press release.

According to the Newhouse wire story, Johnnie Burton, Director of the Minerals Management Service, one of nine operating units that make up the Department of the Interior, failed to insure that 1,032 leases granted to oil and gas drilling firms contained royalty provisions and price thresholds, which would have allowed the IRS to properly collect some $10 billion dollars in royalties that the U.S. Treasury should have received under the 1995 Deep Water Royalty Relief Act.

Bill Walsh, a Newhouse reporter, filed the story, which reports that Inspector General Earl Devaney found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing but criticized the ``cavalier management'' of the director of the Minerals Management Service, who Devaney said ignored the blunder for more than a year.

In his testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Devaney questioned whether, even now, taxpayers are getting what they are owed from private energy companies operating in the Gulf of Mexico. He called the royalty-collection process "basically an honor system," a characterization that sparked a strong response from Democrats.

“The IRS has no problem sending out a tax bill with interest down to the very penny, but we have a problem doing that with big oil companies,'' said Sen. Robert Menendez, (D-N.J.) “Ask the taxpayers how they feel about that.”

Since you asked, Mr. Menendez, this taxpayer, who now works closer to state bureaucracy than he cares for at times, thinks it is absolute BS!! Furthermore, as a small business person (micro-business, actually) who constantly has been harassed by the IRS over the past five years for minor issues that cost me more in time and money than they were probably worth fighting, knows firsthand the selective policies that the IRS administers.

In my opinion, rather than hassle and harangue honest business people, just trying to make a living, if you really want to put a feather in your bureaucratic fedora, then go after the real malicious cheats, the companies who are perpetuating fraud, or at the very least, getting a free pass from an agency that knows better, but seems to be serving the benefactors of the administration in charge, whether it be Republican, or Democrat.

In another tax-related story, the House voted on Thursday to roll back billions in oil company subsidies (or as I prefer to characterize them, corporate welfare). To Nancy Pelosi’s credit, this was the last of six high-priority issues that the speaker pledged, upon assuming her position, to push through during the first 100 hours of assuming control from Republicans.

Typically, oil-friendly Republican hacks, like Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Don Young (R-Alaska) were found bitching and moaning about this possible new direction in energy policy.

Majority Leader, Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) spoke for many Americans, at least folks who feel like I do, when he said, “The oil industry doesn’t need the taxpayers help…There isn’t an American that goes to the pump that doesn’t know that.”

While gas prices have fallen dramatically the past few weeks, it wasn’t long ago that most of us were paying close to $3/gallon to fill our tanks.

While I applaud Democrats for pushing this vote through the House, there is a lot more that they need to do before I’ll stand up and cheerlead for a party that too often appears more interested in keep bipartisan than it does on protecting us from the corporate bullies that keep stealing our lunch money and pushing us in the mud.

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