A new Goldman State Podcast drops every Friday!

Sep 29, 2023

IRS Has Canceled Its Surprise Visits. Wotta Bummer!

It was always just one more thing to look forward to

By Ed Goldman

As the second quarter of my fiscal year draws to an end on September 30, I feel a sense of disappointment. You see, for my entire adult life I’ve been waiting to use the German expression “Gott in himmel!” and figured I’d save it until an agent with the Internal Revenue Service paid me a surprise visit. 

But at the end of July, the agency announced it was no longer going to drop by unannounced at the homes or workplaces of taxpayers (or tax scofflaws). One reason given for abandoning this element of abruptness was safety, both of the agents and citizens. 

Edgy Cartoon

Barney raisin’

I get why the agents could have been in jeopardy but am a bit unclear about why citizens were—unless they inflicted harm on themselves when they realized the guy on their front porch wearing a dark suit was neither a Jehovah’s Witness nor a door-to-door mortuary salesman.

I also get why the appearance of anyone at our door can prove jarring—whether they’re relatives (whom you hadn’t invited or even spoken to in years), Amazon delivery people (when you’d ordered nothing), a gardener (since you don’t employ one), or a Door Dash worker who was provided the wrong address. 

Even worse are city council or school board candidates (“This shouldn’t take more than an hour. How’s your day going?”) and windshield-repair people who just happened to be driving by your house and just happened to notice a tiny crack on your car’s front window (even though your car is parked in the garage).

The decision to abort its surprise visits is just part of the IRS’s initiative to brighten its image. I think it could have done this without eliminating the visits, simply by making 75 percent of them upbeat. 

Like: “Hi, I have a check for you from the federal government because you overpaid your income tax last year! Do I smell fresh coffee?”

Or: “Congratulations! The IRS has decided to give you a cash reward, certificate of merit and Walmart gift card for paying your taxes on time every year. You’re a good citizen, a patriot and, to be honest, kind of nice looking. Do I smell waffles?”

And what about that ominous name—Internal Revenue Service? When a word can be followed by “bleeding” (internal), modified by “lost” (revenue)  or preceded by “hours of community” (service), is the message all that perky? 

Why not call the agency Your Tax Buddies, Those Laughlin’ Leviers or The Tariff Sheriffs? 

Why not create a cartoon mascot called Professor Assessor: a puffin wearing glasses, a robe and a mortar board hat, and hire non-union/non-striking actors to put on a Professor Assessor costume and go to elementary schools to talk about the joy of paying taxes—or to inspire them to grow up and get rich so they’ll rarely have to?

The tax code and tax forms could be more fun, too. 

Looking for a Great Gift?

The former could be re-imagined as a graphic novel to recount the agency’s formation on July 1, 1862, showing President Abraham Lincoln sign it into law then slip out to hunt vampires.

As for the latter, why not copy an online retail format, on which you’d find a check-off list for your deductions, a click to add these to your “shopping cart” and then a link to “make payment.” Then, in internet commerce fashion, do some upselling:

“You may also like donating to NGOs in Fallujah! Click here for the deets!”

“Getting some money back? Visit us at hedgefunds’r’us.com!”

All in all, I think the IRS is on the right track. Guess I’ll hang onto  “Gott in himmel!” until the next Presidential election results are in.

Don’t forget! A new Goldman State Podcast drops every Friday!


Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).