If only the IRS were run like Microsoft

Government should be run like a business. Weve all
heard that chestnut. Here is how the Internal Revenue
Service (nobodys favorite government agency) would be
like, if only it were run like Microsoft Corp. (a
successful private enterprise).

The IRS, as always, announces new tax forms will be
mailed the week before the new year. However it will
follow Microsofts example and actually ship them the
following May.
Responding to pressure from some large corporations and
a users group, some early copies of the tax forms will
actually be released in March. The recipients must
sign non-disclosure agreements.
In June, the forms will be recalled because the IRS
loses a suit for appropriating some other countrys
intellectual property.
When you move, the IRS will continue to send mail to
your previous address forevermore, just like Microsoft
sends its product upgrade notices.
When you upgrade from form 1040 EZ to 1040 A, and then
to 1040, you will pay an upgrade fee each time. Also
you need to send in a new registration card and get a
new Social Security Number. In order to upgrade, you
have to submit the original first page of your previous
years form.
Like Microsoft, when you file a late or amended tax
return the IRS will reject it on the grounds that the
the prior year is no longer supported.
The IRS telephone help will remain similar to
Microsofts, staffed by ill-trained, high-turnover
personnel who sometimes give a correct answer, but
the IRS will have to discontinue using a toll-free
phone number.
After struggling with reams of dense documentation of
complex options and rules, you discover that you will
need publication 3297, with a ten-word-long title, in
order to answer (you hope) a single obscure question.
The IRS, like Microsoft, will charge a minimum of $40
for that publication.
The IRS, like Microsoft, will continue to issue
immense volumes of bug fixes, interpretations, and
clarifications. However the tax-rule updates should
be neither easily searchable nor well-indexed.
Instead of three-ring binders containing complete sets
of tax code bugs and interpretations, IRS rulings will
be promulgated in a haphazard fashion by individual
taxpayers via BBS, Usenet, and Compuserve. A for-
profit publishing subsidiary would also be nice.
The new all-powerful (and eccentric) Commissioner of
Internal Revenue will jet around the country giving
speeches and granting numerous interviews, but only
to sycophantic reporters. Changes to the tax code
will be at the whim of the Commissioner and largely
kept secret until they are published.

Michael Glass mglass@fnalv.fnal.gov
Reva Freedman freedman@merle.acns.nwu.edu

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