05/28/2013 12:39 pm ET Updated Jul 28, 2013

IRS Civil Servants Underappreciated

There is a funny notion out there that federal employees, otherwise known as civil servants, as in civilians performing a service for the people of the U.S., are lazy, cheating, vindictive, and otherwise scourge that no self-respecting business person would want to hire. I'm hear to say that is not the case.

I was a civil servant, working in the science sector, on issues related to earthquake hazards, in the effort to protect and minimize the damage caused by earthquakes, and to support earthquake recovery efforts when that was needed. Everyone I knew worked hard, carefully, respectful of the taxpayer dollar that funded us. And pretty much everyone I met in other agencies behaved in the same way.

So recently, when I had what I thought was a mistake from the IRS regarding my tax return, I called the office, and pretty quickly got through to a real person who could, and did, really help resolve the problem. He was kind, considerate, diligent, and humorous. He determined the error (theirs to my relief) and led me through the steps I needed to take to resolve the issue. He did not ask my political leanings, he did not react offensively to a public member, he just did his job well.

The IRS needs more resources -- people and money. Congress has strangled their funding for over ten years, to the point that they cannot update computers and software, yet alone hire civil servants to replace the ones that retire. There has been little streamlining, little modernization. The servants are overworked, over-berated, under-appreciated. No wonder they are jaded, burnt out, and make mistakes. But like the man I talked with, when asked, they go the extra mile to help a citizen.

The responsibility of the IRS is huge -- to verify that taxes legislated by Congress are fairly collected. The look for cheats, for creative interpretation, for unreported income. And all in the effort of revenue collection so that our government, the one of the people, for the people, can do the work to improve our health, protect our safety, and enhance our life experience. We want a government to provide for the common welfare, and do it fairly. It takes money to do that, and that money is supposed to be fairly collected by the IRS. Let's thank the IRS civil servants, and other federal civil servants who work for the common good.