IRS Strikes Back

The news that the IRS is finally working up the gumption to crack down on high-income tax evaders is certainly welcome. After Republicans managed to demonize and castrate the agency all through the 1990s with bogus “scare stories,” tax collectors decide to dedicate their increasingly meager resources on low-income families who squeaked through the system with an few hundred extra bucks from the Earned-Income Tax Credit, and shied away from confronting the high-rollers who could squirrel away millions in offshore shelters and then defend themselves with an army of lawyers. It was, as one might guess, totally senseless and utterly immoral. The thing is, there’s real money to be made from smarter tax enforcement: unpaid taxes in 2001 came to some $353 billion. And most enforcement measures more than pay for themselves. Eventually, when it comes time to close the deficit—and that time will come, like it or not—people can choose: either we crack down on the deadbeats or else raise taxes on everyone else more than we’d otherwise have to. This shouldn’t be a terribly difficult choice.