Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld apparently takes a degree of pleasure in sending an annual letter to the Internal Revenue Service. Today, he offered his latest installment in the series.
“Once again, I have mailed in our federal income tax and gift tax filings for 2015, and have requested an extension due to the delays in materials required to complete our tax return.“Despite having performed this civic duty for over half a century, at the concluding of filing this year’s taxes, I remain mystified as to whether or not our tax returns and tax payment estimates are accurate. The possession of a college degree, retention of an experienced tax accounting firm, and earnest application have failed to provide confidence that my returns and payments are properly completed.”
Rumsfeld goes on to insist the millions of Americans find the annual tax-filing process complicated, and in his mind, “A fundamental and annual civic duty should not be so laborious and costly for the average American.”
He concludes by dreaming of the day in which the government “radically simplifies the tax code,” possibly with a “flat tax.”
Let’s skip over the fact that a flat tax is a horrible idea. Let’s also overlook the fact that Rumsfeld is under the mistaken impression that it’s charming for people to write angry missives to the IRS about what the government ought to be doing.
Let’s instead focus on the core problem here: Rumsfeld, who spent much of his lengthy career in government, seems confused about what the IRS does.
It’s not up to the Internal Revenue Service to simplify the federal tax code. The complexity of tax law is entirely unrelated to the IRS’s authority, since the agency simply enforces what’s already on the books.
Rumsfeld, in other words, sends an annual letter to the wrong people. It’s the equivalent of complaining to the FBI about federal criminal laws, as if the bureau wrote the laws instead of enforcing them.
If Rumsfeld wants to see tax reform, bothering the IRS is pointless. He should direct his concern to his friends in Congress, who are ultimately responsible for writing tax law – and who, incidentally, aren’t close to considering tax reform.
Postscript: As we discussed last year around this time, the lines between Abe Simpson and Donald Rumsfeld are getting blurry. I kept looking for the postscript in today’s letter in which the man who, until nine years ago ran the nation’s largest bureaucracy, was supposed to say, “There are too many states nowadays. Please eliminate three….”