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An absolutely infuriating story from ProPublica yesterday reminds us that the GOP has made taxation fairly painless for the wealthy, and not just in terms of tax cuts. It's true that the very rich -- households with income over a million bucks -- get their taxes audited most frequently by the IRS. But the people whose taxes are SECOND most audited by the IRS are not actually the next rung down on the income ladder. Heck no! As another ProPublica story detailed last year, people making less than $20,000 a year are audited at "twice the rate of taxpayers with income between $200,000 and $500,000." And while GOP budget cuts to the IRS have meant overall audits have dropped, the rich (and merely very well off) have seen a very sharp drop-off in audit rates -- and less intense scrutiny when they do get audited -- while low-income folks have had a much smaller reduction in audits, and are actually facing audits that are far more nitpicky.

You see, congressional Republicans are certain that all poor people are likely criminals , so they've pressured the IRS to crack down on people claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit. Gotta stop all the low-income tax cheats, you know. And in the meantime, only about a third of some types of business income gets reported, but why would the IRS go after businesses? They make jerbs!


Which brings us to this map of the counties where the IRS performs the most audits per capita, based on a recent study published in a journal for tax professionals. Big surprise! It's almost a perfectly drawn map of poverty and of minority populations, too. (There's an interactive version of the map at ProPublica, so you can see how your own county compares to the national average.) The darker, the more audits per 1000 tax filings.

The densest pockets of audits tend to be in counties with lots of poor and minority taxpayers; the most-audited county in the USA, it turns out, is Humphreys County, Mississippi, with 11.8 audits per 1000 filers. That's not because of all the billionaires in the county:

The study estimates that Humphreys, with a median annual household income of just $26,000, is audited at a rate 51 percent higher than Loudoun County, Virginia, which boasts a median income of $130,000, the highest in the country.

The study was done by a former IRS senior economist, Kim M. Bloomquist, who used to work in the agency's research division.

He decided to map the distribution of audits to illustrate the dramatic regional effects of the IRS' emphasis on EITC audits. Because more than a third of all audits are of EITC recipients, the number of audits in each county is largely a reflection of how many taxpayers there claimed the credit, he found.

In counties with the highest audit rates, there were about 11 audits per 1,000 tax returns filed each year, he found, which is more than 40 percent above the national average.

The audit map has quite a bit to say about who the IRS prioritizes for close scrutiny -- and who it doesn't:

The five counties with the highest audit rates are all predominantly African American, rural counties in the Deep South. The audit rate is also very high in South Texas' largely Hispanic counties and in counties with Native American reservations, such as in South Dakota. Primarily poor, white counties, such as those in eastern Kentucky in Appalachia, also have elevated audit rates.

The states with the lowest audit rates tend to be home to middle income, largely white populations: places like New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Generally, the IRS audits taxpayers with household income between $50,000 and $100,000 the least.

Mind you, an IRS spokesperson was very careful to explain to ProPublica, by email, "that tax returns are selected for audit without regard to race or where the taxpayer lives." Totally not the IRS's fault that Republicans have demanded they crack down on the 47 Percent after Fox News said too many poor people have it way too easy, collecting a tax credit they clearly don't deserve, even if Saint Ronald Reagan considered it a nifty anti-poverty measure.

Oh yes, and speaking of taxes, the Washington Post ran a timely opinion piece yesterday arguing that Democrats shouldn't let Donald Trump's ridiculous "total exoneration" rhetoric slow down their efforts to get Trump's tax returns from the IRS, a power the House already has. The Center for American Progress is pushing congressional Dems to use it, for Crom's sake. There are plenty of good reasons, it argues, to demand Trump's taxes, which "the U.S. Treasury Department has no basis for refusing":

  1. To determine if U.S. national security is at risk of being compromised by the president's financial conflicts of interest
  2. To determine if Trump has conflicts of interests bearing on his trade and tariffs policies
  3. To determine whether the president is violating the U.S. Constitution by receiving benefits from foreign countries without Congress' consent
  4. To determine whether he is benefiting from his tax policies despite his many public assertions to the contrary
  5. To determine whether the IRS is adequately auditing the president
  6. To inform the consideration of additional disclosure requirements for candidates and officeholders

House Ways and Means Committee chair Rep. Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts) has been tasked by Nancy Pelosi to get on that request, but the problem is that he's moving a bit slowly, asking all relevant committees to present their best case for the request, with the logic that the request should be on the strongest legal footing for a possible court fight with the White House. Problem is, that could mean Trump's taxes might not be released for years. That's why the Center is trying to push Congress to get on with it already: You wieners have the authority, so would you please just use it please?

Maybe we could start a rumor that Trump's planning on claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit. That might get some attention.

[ProPublica / ProPublica / WaPo / Center for American Progress]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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