Wednesday, May 03, 2017

When Caesar Needs Help Getting You to Render

I think most of us are familiar with the Biblical story told in chapter 22 of Matthew, verses 20-22* ...

"20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?

21 They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.

22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.

This story is the basis of the separation, in Christian tradition, of temporal and spiritual authority. "Rendering unto Caesar" is sometimes used as shorthand for paying taxes to the various temporal authorities who are legally entitled to dip their sticky fingers into our pockets.

But what happens when Caesar isn't able to enforce all the rendering he's expecting? There's an empire to run, after all ... somebody has to make sure we're doing all the rendering we're supposed to do.

And that's why the Internal Revenue Service, suffering from years of budget cuts and benign neglect, mostly from tax-hating Republican members of Congress, has decided it needs help, and has announced plans to contract with four commercial debt collection agencies to go after those who have insufficiently rendered unto Caesar.

Yes, folks, after years of the IRS warning you that it would never contact you directly by phone to demand payment of taxes, it is now contracting with professional debt harvesters who are authorized to contact you directly by phone to demand payment of taxes.

This is not good, and not only because it will make it far more difficult for the average citizen to differentiate between legitimate tax collection and the ubiquitous scams in which despicable thieves call citizens directly and demand payment of an alleged tax debt.

When I was working as a contractor for the Air Force, I learned about the concept of inherently governmental functions. What this meant in practical terms was that there were certain things that I, as a contractor, was not permitted to do. I could, for instance, go to meetings as a representative of the Air Force office I supported, but could not define an official Air Force position on an issue or commit the Air Force to any expense or course of action. I was permitted only to take notes and report back to my government customer, who would then decide what to do and take the appropriate action.

One definition** states that an inherently governmental function is “a function so intimately related to the public interest as to require performance by Federal Government employees.” In my opinion, for what it's worth***, the collection of taxes - the ability of an agency of the federal government legally to seize my wealth and punish me if I fail to give it up - is the very definition of an inherently governmental function. In what universe is it appropriate for a commercial entity to wield such power?

So, Dear Readers, be very careful in the future when somebody calls you on the phone and says they're representing the IRS and demanding payment of a tax debt. Supposedly, the IRS will have first sent you a letter telling you to expect contact from a collection agency before anyone calls you. This means that now, not only do you have to worry about scam phone calls, but you also need to carefully review and confirm the authenticity of any letter you receive that claims to be from the IRS.

And that, friends, is an inherently personal ass-covering function.

Have a good day. Beware of scammers.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* King James Version.

** In The Federal Activities Inventory Reform (FAIR) Act of 1998

*** Not much, I can tell you.


Mike said...

I can't wait for this fiasco to get started.

John Hill said...

I wonder who the four owners of the contract companies are and what their connections are to the IRS. If it's like the FAA contracts, they are probably former IRS officials that will have lucrative contracts in addition to their retirement incomes.

allenwoodhaven said...

Your opinion is worth at least 2 cents and, at least to me, much more than that. Clearly this is an inherently governmental function, but certain politicians always want to give money to some private sector group, all the better to ask for donations from!