Scary Ads Bearing IRS Name Are Annoying


Yesterday I got a letter that scared me as soon as I took it out of the mailbox. I couldn’t open it right away because I was carrying other mail and walking my puppy. But when I saw it was from the IRS, my heart began to pound.

Yes, I turned in my tax returns… with my usual combination of tears at what I was paying and gratitude for not having to think about it for another year. But now I feared trouble.

After releasing Lexi from her leash and putting down the rest of the mail, with quivering hands I opened the envelope. I was imagining all sorts of problems. Even though I play it straight with the tax folks, who among us doesn’t get a frisson of fear when hearing from them?

I suppose that occasionally, someone gets a letter saying that they have far overpaid and enclosed is a huge check. I have never met one of those lucky people who I believe are as rare as leprechauns. This had to be bad news. Was I being called in for a quickie review (which is about as much fun, I am told, as surgery) or for one of the real special reviews where they go over everything microscopically, no matter how tiny, for their own reasons. (Which is about as much fun as surgery without anesthetic. My brother-in-law who faced that described it as “being hit by a bus.”)

So I opened the letter, while at the back of my mind I was wondering if the meatloaf at the local prison was even half as good as the one Maria makes. I gazed at the letter and then started to curse. It was not from the IRS!

It was simply an ad from a Volkswagen dealership, using the format to ensure that people would open their ad. By the way, after this I will never go near that particular dealership, and we do have a Volkswagen right now.

I am getting truly angry at how some businesses are using tax anxiety to play on our emotions. Several of my neighbors who saw the ad had the same reaction. Others told me of other similar ads, all designed to scare us.

It is bad enough there are constant lies in a lot of the ads we receive. And in the case of mailed ones, the government adds insult to injury by having all of us subsidize these schemes by allowing low costs for mailing advertising while demanding that citizens pay higher postal rates to send birthday cards to our kids or grandkids. The folks who sent out those scary ads could probably send out dozens of those for what I paid for a card for my daughter.

Yes, there should be a law, and if you really expect it, take a sober look at America in 2017. The Postal Service (and I do not mean the really nice people at the local post offices or the ones who actually deliver our mail) really only cares about the advertisers. They will do nothing for ordinary folks. And if you expect your elected representatives to care about something like this, then the new marijuana laws have liberated your thinking earlier than for the rest of us.

Another element, of course, is that the IRS is a scary organization. Forget about the news stories on how it targets what it considers “enemies,” slowing down approval of certain organizations so they can get donations.

The real problem is that we are all scared of the system. It is not the average IRS worker, either. Most are quite nice and want to help; I had a problem a few years ago, and they were great. But our system is so convoluted that unless you are able to use the simplest forms, you need to go to specialists.

Even the lawmakers who pass the tax laws need them because they don’t understand them either. And every time they “simplify” the laws, they get more complicated and usually provide special benefits quietly only to powerful people who are the ones on television who tell us we really should be paying more.

I wish I had a good answer to that one. In the meantime, can we cut back on this scary advertising?