It's a great time to be rich in America. But if you're the kind of person whose idea of a good time involves a certain level of risk--high stakes gambling, sky diving or tax fraud, for instance--the Bush Administration just took away one of your thrills.
Within the next 70 days, the IRS will permanently eliminate the jobs of half of the lawyers who audit the wealthiest Americans' tax returns.
According to internal IRS documents leaked to the New York Times by outraged IRS employees, six of whom agreed to be interviewed by the paper, the IRS is axing 157 of its 345 estate tax lawyers and 17 support personnel.
The Agency is doing de facto what the Bush tried and failed to do de jure: Sway Congress to entirely eliminate the estate tax to help the richest taxpayers in the country pay even less of their fair share.
The decision is not because the Agency's estate tax lawyers have too much time on their hands or aren't finding any tax criminals out there. By the IRS' own admission, 85 percent of the large taxable gifts they audit are fraudulent and intended to cheat the public.
For every hour that the Agency's estate tax lawyers work, they uncover on average $2,200 in taxes that Americans worth $1 million or more are illegally withholding from the government. That adds up to about $1.4 billion in lost tax revenues a year.
This is white collar crime on steroids.
One would think that on a practical level, the Bush Administration would prefer to have another billion and a half on hand to pay for military, homeland security and boarder guards. In other words, to fight tax crime in order to pay for fighting crimes likes terrorism and imagined threats of immigration.
But these are costs that the poor, somehow, someway, must continue to cover with their rent money, diaper money, food money, gas money and, when it comes to securing employment by fighting the War in Iraq, their lives.