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Policy: Budgets & Deficits

Happy birthday, IRS?

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Opinion,Op-Eds,Taxes,IRS,Accountability,Budgets and Deficits,Spending,Transparency

On July 9, the Internal Revenue Service will turn 61, a few years short of the average retirement age. Many Americans, when they get ready to retire, reflect on their career.

I’d like to think the IRS, were it personified, might take a long look at its professional life leading up to its birthday.

The IRS's primary function is to take in American tax dollars, and use them to fund vital American programs, services, and operations.

Because the dollars coming in do not equal the dollars going out, the U.S. national debt increases every day.

Every April, Americans report their financial gains and losses to the IRS. Americans are legally required to provide comprehensive, factual data to their government.

After all, those moneys fund services, including government agencies, schools, law enforcement, and state parks, to name just a few.

These programs and countless others depend on accurate bookkeeping. As an accountant, I know that responsible Americans generally spend no more than they take in, but the federal government is not bound by that convention.

That’s a double standard, and it’s wrong. Our government should be held to the same standards to which it holds its citizens.

Also, these deficits must be reported truthfully and in a timely manner to the hard-working citizens like you and me.

It’s imperative that governments accurately represent their deficits to their countrymen and enable government officials to make decisions based upon accurate data.

Another double standard is that the IRS does not allow corporations with revenues of more than $5 million to use cash-basis accounting.

Under this type of accounting, corporations need only report the activity in their checkbook. Under current law, the IRS requires a corporation of this size to report all of the revenue it earns and all of the costs it incurs during the year.

The federal government's revenue is $2.7 trillion. Even though this is 540,000 times greater than the corporate revenue limit of $5 million, the government uses the checkbook-accounting method.

This allows our elected officials essentially to hide the true cost of our government. As a result, our budget deficits are massively understated.

Our elected representatives and government officials claim our national debt is $17 trillion. This amount is correct only if you believe our veterans and federal employees are not going to receive their retirement benefits, and that the federal government does not owe our seniors the Social Security and Medicare benefits they have been promised.

If these retirement promises are included in our national debt calculation, the actual total is more than $80 trillion. This represents more than $250,000 for each man, woman, and child in our country.

Before our national financial problems can be solved, our true financial condition associated with them must be accurately reported.

We trust the IRS to report and acquire the correct data. Our expectations must be the same for our federal, state, and local governments. With the facts, you can be knowledgeable participants in solving our governments' financial problems.

The mission of the organization I lead, Truth in Accounting, is to educate and empower citizens with understandable, reliable and transparent government financial information.

Here at Truth in Accounting, we believe you should be told the truth about our federal debt and deficits. I encourage you to learn more about the truth about our national debt and see the numbers for yourself.

By becoming more informed citizens, we can take a step towards understanding the financial data that currently is and is not reported by our government.

And having done so, we can then take the further steps that are essential to restoring our nation's financial health.

Sheila Weinberg is founder and CEO of Truth in Accounting.

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