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Former IRS Agent: Today's Tax Codes More Confusing


April 19, 2011 (Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News) Jerry Kessler had taxes on his mind as the deadline to pay Uncle Sam drew near.



The 91-year-old spent about a decade with the agency in the early 1950s, first as an IRS officer and then as an agent, he said.

He still has a copy of the 1950s IRS code. So, he compared it to his copy of the tax code for 2010.

Sixty-one years ago, the regulations were 137 pages with 7,141 inches of instructions. Today, the code is 280 pages and 26,408 inches.

"That is approximately 3.7 times as big as the 1951 edition, in spite of several attempts to reform and simplify the IRS code," Kessler said. "It's bigger because it includes a lot of tax loopholes created by legislation for the rich people."

Tax laws in the 1950s were much easier to understand, Kessler said.

"Today, the IRS has a phone system where you can call in two or three different times and get two or three different answers, it's so complicated," Kessler said. "I had to get a tax preparer, it's so complex. Nobody knows the entire code because it's too involved."

During his time as a tax man, IRS officers, otherwise known as IRS hit men, seized property, Kessler said.

"We dealt largely with small-time, petty criminals who tried to evade paying their just dues. Nothing big," Kessler said.

But he didn't enjoy the job.

"I decided it wasn't for me. It was too hard on people," Kessler said.

After five years, he became an agent responsible for auditing tax returns and determining liabilities.

One unforgettable moment in the line of duty for Kessler was a raid. "A house of ill-repute, you might say," Kessler said. "We had to determine how many customers he had, so we counted the towels that went to the laundry to guess how much the income was."

After 10 years with the IRS, Kessler moved on to an accounting job with the Department of Energy.

Copyright (c) 2011, The Frederick News-Post, Md.

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