I.R.S. Kicks a Percentage of the Take Back to Snitches

If you’ve been paying attention, you know that the IRS has outsourced some of its delinquent tax collection activities to quasi-private debt collection agencies.

More insidiously, and more sneakily, they’ve also outsourced some of their auditing and investigation. They’ve done this by expanding their policy of encouraging snitches (they call them “whistleblowers”) to rat people out by kicking back a percentage of what they’re able to recover.

To take advantage of this, a bunch of lawyers have decided to go into the freelance tax investigation business. Here’s an excerpt from a recent press release:

Today, The Ferraro Law Firm filed a new record tax whistleblower submission of more than $4.4 billion to the IRS Whistleblower Office. The Ferraro Law Firm has now brought to the U.S. government’s attention dozens of taxpayers who have collectively underpaid their taxes by more than $10 billion. The previous known record submission of $2 billion was also filed by the firm on . The IRS established the Whistleblower Office in to collect information about tax cheats and must, by law, pay a reward of up to 30 percent of the amount collected to the tax whistleblower.

Who will be the first to denounce me to the feds for a buck?

In , in the middle of the United States Civil War, the United States Senate met and debated, among other things, Quaker conscientious objection. They didn’t seem to be particularly well-informed as to the extent of or the reason for Quaker objection to paying military fines, but it’s interesting how much attention they gave the subject at such a time.

The following amendment to the conscription law was being considered:

Senator John C. Ten Eyck of New Jersey told his colleagues that this would not go far enough to satisfy Quaker conscientious objectors:

One of the objects of the amendment is to relieve the religious Society of Friends from the burden of this bill, and the Senator from Rhode Island has stated very truly the difficulties to which members of that society have been heretofore subjected, and the persecutions, to adopt his language, that have been heaped upon them in regard to the performance of military service. If we intend to do them a favor and to relieve them from the consequences of this act, I respectfully submit that we must go further. We must not only relieve them from the draft, but from the liability of paying the commutation money, for I have always understood that Friends, as they call themselves, not only object to the performance of military service, but to the payment of any fine or commutation in lieu thereof; and many of them, even who were possessed of large estates, have lain for months in jail rather than violate what they understood to be a principle of their faith by paying a miserable fine of from one to five dollars for not discharging military duty under the militia system in the several States. I think it will not reach or answer the purpose that certain gentlemen have in view, to so amend this bill as to relieve them from the discharge of military service by the payment of the commutation. In all the petitions and in all the proceedings as published coming from this very large respectable class of citizens in the United States, I have seen the objection raised to both features of the bill, and, to adopt their language, they bear testimony as strongly against the payment of the money as they do against going into the field.

So, without stating how I shall vote myself upon this amendment, I suggest that if we design to respect their conscientious scruples and to relieve them on account of them, we must relieve them also from the payment of the commutation money. When this matter was before the Senate a year ago, I voted against relieving them.

Senator James Harlan of Iowa hoped that the clause allowing conscientious objectors to do hospital service might be acceptable to Quaker conscientious objectors:

I think the amendment, as modified, meets the case suggested by the Senator from New Jersey. This amendment relieves the party drafted in the case named from military duty entirely, and provides that he may serve in the hospitals, or that in lieu of this hospital service he may pay a sum of money to be applied for the relief of sick and wounded soldiers. The objection made by Friends to paying money has been to paying it as an equivalent for military service. They say, “We might as well bear arms as hire a man to bear arms in our stead.” This amendment, if I understand it, relieves them from the performance of military duty entirely, but it provides that they shall perform duty in the hospitals, and then gives them the alternative of paying money rather than performing this hospital service.

Senator Henry B. Anthony of Rhode Island thought that maybe by hypothecating the militia exemption fine to humanitarian purposes they could evade Quaker scruples:

I would say, in justice to the scruples which the Friends have as to the payment of money, that I do not think they object to a military fine being collected from them by warrant of distress, as, I think, the lawyers call it, or by taxation. They do not pay them voluntarily, but they do not go to prison rather than have their property levied upon. But under the enrollment bill a man must either serve or pay $300 for the procuration of a substitute. They can see a difference, but no great difference in principle, between serving themselves and hiring somebody else to serve for them. The money which they pay is “for the procuration of substitutes.” If the money could be appropriated to any hospital purposes, to any purpose towards which they can conscientiously contribute, they have no objection. These opinions may seem very absurd; I know they do, by Senators smiling around me; but they are opinions that have been entertained for two hundred years by as intelligent men as have ever spoken the English language, and men have borne every persecution that the old martyrs ever bore in defense of these principles — educated, intelligent men; and I think we ought to respect them.

Kansas Senator James H. Lane agreed with Senator Harlan that drafting Quakers to serve in hospitals was the answer:

I have had some dealings with the Quakers, and I desire to say… that it is perfectly ridiculous to attempt to force a Quaker into the ranks of the Army. It cannot be done, or if you should succeed in doing it, he would be worthless as a soldier. Besides, the attempt to collect money from the Quakers in lieu of military service will cost the Government ten dollars where they obtain one, if they get it at all. It is a losing business to attempt to collect money from Quakers in lieu of military service. But if you adopt the proposition of the Senator from Iowa, giving them the privilege of serving in hospitals, and permitting them to pay their money in lieu of hospital service, they will promptly and cheerfully come forward and pay that money, their conscientious scruples not being violated by such payment.

Senator Lazarus W. Powell thought either his colleagues or the Quakers or both must be crazy. Ironically, perhaps, his characterization of the Quaker point-of-view was in many ways the most accurate yet. And his reductio charging that paying taxes to a government that is conducting a war is no different from paying commutation fines to pay for a conscription substitute is, instead, a pithy argument for war tax resistance:

I was in favor of exempting Friends; but I cannot understand the subtle logic of gentlemen who seem to think that if you compel a Friend to pay $300 commutation money in lieu of hospital service he can do it conscientiously when he cannot pay the money in lieu of military service. The hospital service is just as much an attendant upon war as any other service connected with the Army. You frequently have to detail soldiers to attend to your sick and wounded. Assigning them to hospital service and to military service is in effect the same.… How a man can conscientiously pay the taxes that the Government imposes for the purpose of raising men and paying them and buying munitions of war, when he cannot conscientiously pay the commutation money, is a matter that I cannot well comprehend. I cannot see any difference. If a man cannot conscientiously go to war, and cannot conscientiously give money to carry on war, how can he conscientiously pay the taxes that the Government imposes for the purpose of carrying on the war? Why, sir, if a man can conscientiously pay the taxes, he can just as conscientiously pay commutation money. As the law now stands, a man can exempt himself from military duty by paying commutation money. That is but a form of taxation for the purpose of getting soldiers into your Army. The money goes to hire substitutes or to pay bounties. So the money that is raised by taxation is taken out of your Treasury for the purpose of paying bounties to soldiers and paying them their monthly stipend or wages. Where is the difference? There is none.

Senator Anthony thought the best approach might be to take advantage of the fact that Quakers typically would put up with distraints of their property without resistance:

I offer another amendment, to insert the following as new sections:

The effect of this amendment is, that a person conscientiously scrupulous against bearing arms is relieved from the obligation to pay $400 for the procuration of some other person to do that which he believes God has forbidden him to do, and provides that the fine shall be collected by warrant of distress. He then submits to the law, the law takes his property, and he makes no complaint or opposition; but he is not required to do it voluntarily, and that is a great relief to the consciences of a great many intelligent men.…

Then there was some back-and-forth between Senators James R. Doolittle Henry B. Anthony, and Reverdy Johnson:

Mr. Doolittle. The bill as it stands does not require them to go as combatants at all, but simply gives them their choice, either to take care of the sick and wounded, or pay over their $400 for the purpose of providing for the wants of the sick and wounded. I do not understand any Quaker in the world to object to ministering to the wants of those who are sick or who are wounded in war. They are willing to do everything to alleviate the results of war. What they object to is bearing arms and being instrumental in the killing of men themselves.

Mr. Anthony. A great many of them object to rendering any service which relieves another man from the obligation of that service and enables him to go into the Army.

Mr. Johnson. That is going too far.

Mr. Anthony. It is going too far, I know, but it is no further than very honest and very intelligent men go. They have held these opinions, and their ancestors before them, for a great many years. As it is the same thing to the Government, and will be a material relief to them, I cannot see any objection to the amendment.

Senator Ten Eyck tried to reassert his point:

Mr. President, I think these persons ought either to be exempted altogether or not exempted at all. I have on my table a memorial placed there this morning, which comes from the meeting representing the Ohio Yearly Meeting of Friends, held at Damascus on , in which these memorialists state—

That the Society of Friends has from its rise been conscientious against fighting or bearing arms under any circumstances, or paying an equivalent in lieu thereof.

After stating the grounds of their belief, the memorial winds up by saying:

We therefore respectfully ask for exemption from military service, and from all penalties for the non-performance thereof.

Congress finally decided to go with the original plan of allowing conscientious objectors to be drafted into noncombatant roles or to pay a commutation fine.