Everyone hates the IRS. Even the mothers of its agents hate the tax-collection agency. And that sentiment rises to new levels around this time of year.
On his HBO show last night, John Oliver said those feeling are only natural: “Is it any wonder that everyone hates the IRS?” he said. “Dealing with them is obligatory. It often functions badly. And it combines two of the things we hate most in life: someone taking our money and math.”
Still, Oliver went on to “attempt the impossible”: making viewers feel at least a smidgen of sympathy for the tax man — and explaining why our widespread hatred may be misguided. It’s Congress, after all, that writes the tax code. And it’s Congress that has made it harder for the agency to do its job by cutting the IRS budget from $13.4 billion in 2010 to $10.9 billion this year. As BusinessWeek just said in its latest cover story, "if you think paying your taxes is bad, try working at America's most unloved agency."
“I’m not saying the IRS is a likeable organization,” Oliver said. “But not everything that’s important is likeable. Think of our government as a body. The IRS is the anus. It’s nobody’s favorite part. But you need that thing working properly…”
It’s not that we should love the IRS, or even like them, Oliver said. But the agency deserves “a few minutes of at least grudging acknowledgment of the unpleasant, necessary function they serve.” And to provide that, Oliver brought on the singer who might be even more despised than IRS: Michael Bolton.
Watch the segment below (warning: it includes HBO-appropriate language):
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President Trump announced on Thursday the creation of a National Council for the American Worker, charged with developing “a national strategy for training and retraining workers for high-demand industries,” his daughter Ivanka wrote in The Wall Street Journal. A report from the president’s National Council on Economic Advisers earlier this week made it clear that the U.S. currently spends less public money on job programs than many other developed countries.
Most business economists in the U.S. expect the economy to keep chugging along over the next three months, with rising corporate sales driving additional hiring and wage increases for workers.
The tax cuts, however, don’t seem to be playing a role in hiring and investment plans. And the trade conflicts stirred up by the Trump administration are having a negative influence, with the majority of economists at goods-producing firms who replied to the most recent survey by the National Association for Business Economics saying that their companies were putting investments on hold as they wait to see how things play out.
The Republican tax bill signed into law late last year imposed a 21 percent tax on employees at non-profits who earn more than $1 million a year. According to data from the Chronicle of Higher Education cited by Bloomberg, there were 12 presidents of public universities who received compensation of at least $1 million in 2017, with James Ramsey of the University of Louisville topping the list at $4.3 million. Endowment managers could also get hit with the tax, as could football coaches, some of whom earn substantially more than the presidents of their institutions.
The federal budget deficit rose by 16 percent in the first nine months of the 2018 fiscal year, which began last October. The shortfall came to $607 billion, compared to $523 billion in the same period the year before, according to a U.S. Treasury report released Thursday and reported by Bloomberg. Both revenue and spending rose, but spending rose faster. Revenues came to $2.54 trillion, up 1.3 percent from the same nine-month period in 2017, while spending came to $3.15 trillion, up 3.9 percent.