Posts Tagged ‘Confessions of a Tax Collector’

Last Monday (18 October 2010), I finished reading: “Confessions of a Tax Collector, by Richard Yancey (2004©).  The book is an autobiographical telling of the author’s first couple of years working for the Internal Revenue Service between 1990 and 2003.  His IRS office was based in Florida.  The book is a coming-of-age story and is a fast and interesting read.  I highly recommend it to anyone seeking a better understanding of the people hired to collect taxes for the Federal Government.
I found it brought back a lot of old memories.  I also was a commissioned Revenue Officer for the IRS.  I served from 1986 to the middle of 1988 (only two and a half years), before moving into the information technology field (still with the IRS) and then leaving the Service altogether in December of 1992.
The book stirred up a lot of old memories about the confusion of the job (and Federal employment) and the emotional toll it takes on you when you are constantly seen as the bad guy.  You quickly learn who your real friends are when people find out you actually collect taxes for the IRS.  You literally are “The Man“.  The line I used to explain the job to my friends was: “Knock, knock… I’m here.  It’s time.”
Most of my friends thought it was amusing that a liberal, easy going guy like me was collecting taxes.  I thought it was “different” too – certainly unexpected.  But it was also interesting and I was good at it.  The average Revenue Officer (RO), when I was in the Service, collect $20 for each dollar of salary.  I collected $40.  The average RO secured one tax return per week.  I averaged three.
The author’s personal story was interesting, too – certainly more than I thought it would be.  I feel very lucky to have been married to my wife as I could very easily see how the author let the job become his life.
I certainly never did any of the more egregious things the author did (and claims was common practice) and I never felt the way he purports to feel about the “deadbeats” and other “unsavory” characters he had to deal with in the book.  For me, it was a job.  I did it to the best of my ability – organized, timely and effective; but it was never personal.  The taxpayers didn’t just owe me the money, they owed “us” (as in all of the United States) the money, and it was my job to get the money which was owed.  Like I said, nothing personal.  Just business.
Anyway, the author seems to have been much better at the job than me and he was obviously better at coping with it because he lasted over thirteen years (to my two and two-thirds).
One of the most interesting – and troubling – aspects of the book is the author states the job is essentially gone now.  RO’s don’t go after missed payments the way they used to.  They also work with (ie “allow to stay in business”) businesses which are pyramiding their tax liability while the RO attempts to get them back into full compliance.  I can’t believe this is true as it was absolutely essential we shut down businesses who could not stay current while they were making payments on past due liabilities.  If this is true today, it’s a wonder any business pays any taxes!!
All in all, a fast read and an entertaining story.  I highly recommend it!!  And of course, this was one of the many books I found (and read) not really looking for anything in particular – serendipity and chaos, again.  I guess I needed a reminder of my past…

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