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IRS AGENTS NOT ABOVE DUE PROCESS OF THE LAW.

Byline: Michael D. Savage

CONGRESS has made a commendable start to reform the Internal Revenue Service, but it hasn't addressed one of the real problems: the fact that IRS agents have the power to seize property without due process. No courts, no judges, no lawyers.

In the hands of the wrong person (and, to be fair, not all IRS agents are the wrong persons), such power is devastating. It can be used to terrify people into paying taxes they don't owe, or to ruin them financially if they can't or won't pay.

The IRS Restructuring and Reform Bill, which is pending in Congress, would shift the burden of proof from the taxpayer to the agency, so that the agency would have to prove in court that someone hasn't paid the taxes he owes.

But changing the burden of proof doesn't change how the IRS collects taxes. In many instances, people face IRS agents before they get a court hearing. A rogue agent may collect first and worry about burden of proof later.

Under the proposed law, a taxpayer would be able to sue an IRS agent who abuses his power, but there may not be much money left to pay the lawyers after the agent has improperly auctioned off the person's home or business.

And it can take years to win a lawsuit, so there is no guarantee a taxpayer will recover the property anytime soon.

The perfect solution is to get rid of all the bad agents, but that would be an impossible task. Yet taking away the power to seize assets may not be much easier because the government would lose revenue.

The proceeds from the sale of seized property help pay for school lunches and congressional salaries. Also, more people might duck their taxes if there were no fear of immediate punishment. Then again, practically everybody pays voluntarily, anyway. When people don't, they usually have a reason.

Congress must decide what's worse: Running the risk of losing some revenue, or continuing the status quo knowing that some people will be unjustly ruined. But Congress should know that a shift in the burden of proof or the threat of a lawsuit is not going to stop abuses of power by IRS agents.

To prevent these abuses, the IRS must be subject to due process of law - just like everybody else.
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Title Annotation:VIEWPOINT
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 2, 1997
Words:392
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