Basic Failures: USPS and IRS

November 28, 2021


new office

We’ve moved! Rubin & Bernstein PLLC and Southern Arizona Fiduciary Services LLC reside at 1004 N. 6th Ave. in Tucson. (85705, for mailers.) We’re still getting settled, but we’re in.

The move and this fall have brought a heightened awareness of our failings as a nation. No, I am not discussing the crew who diss the vaccine and the fact that President Joe Biden has not brought the virus to heal. (That Venn diagram looks like one circle.) Or the inflation, seemingly generated by too many dollars chasing goods we can’t get to market because of supply chain upheaval and a whole lot of people who’ve stopped working for substandard wages. Etc.

No, I write about basic stuff. Simple things that ought to work … and don’t.

Let’s start with the United States Postal Service. Leigh and I love the mail system. Speaking for myself, at least, I cannot recall a bad mail experience. Lovely people. A great on-line system. Reasonable prices.

Until … we moved. I have known for many years that the USPS will not forward mail unless everyone in the building leaves. Too complicated, I assume. (Junk mail for me still arrives at my First Ave. address, which I left on 12/31/2009.)

Recently, we learned about another forwarding twist. From a business address the USPS will only forward mail for one addressee. One and only one. Thus, mail gets forwarded for R&B, but not for SAFS, or any of us and ours. Our old post office has accommodated us (through a date certain, which looms) – holding mail, instead of hitting the Return to Sender label machine – and the logjam seems to be breaking, at least a little. But, in a more perfect world USPS would charge us a fair fee for forwarding and use a system that appreciates how people address mail to businesses.

Quick aside about USPS before I move on. By law, the USPS delivers to all addresses, and does so for one set price, even though delivery costs vary widely. By law, the USPS must fully fund its pension system; not so much, its competitors in the delivery business. USPS contracts with FedEx and UPS to provide last mile service, and those entities carry lots of mail on their planes. One more thing. Louis DeJoy, the Postmaster General, has conflicts of interest too numerous to report here, and needs to be fired ASAP.

Now, on to the Internal Revenue Service. Another agency with which I have had uniformly positive experiences. Many, too. Personally, I hear from the tax people when I make a math error, or forget to post something. But I also represent lots of people whose tax situations get complicated, and we all make mistakes. We’re not tax lawyers, but I find myself engaging with the IRS often enough, and rarely twice on the same matter.

On October 12 I mailed my federal and state returns. Big federal refund and a much smaller payment to the state. As of Friday, 44 days later, the IRS system does not show a filed return, and the State of Arizona has not cashed my check. (Yes, I intended to e-file, but I lost my pin, could not figure out how to replace it, and embarrassment explains why I did not ask one of our youngsters for help.)

What explains the delay? Well, the IRS employs fewer people and gets less money for expenses than it did 10 years ago. Roughly 20% fewer people and a double-digit funding decrease. Despite a growing population and a more complicated tax code. Apparently, the lack of personnel, caused by a lack of funding, affects the mailroom.

One party wants to fund the IRS, to collect taxes from people who freeload, and to help people appreciate the consequences of tax cheating. One party opposes this modest step, using blah-blah-blah statements to rev up the donor class and the base. Me? Give the IRS enough money to pay people to open and scan the mail. More funding would be better but, at a minimum, shouldn’t we fund the mailroon?

You can’t call your country the greatest nation on Earth when you impose restrictions on the USPS and, then, say it fails. Ditto for not opening and scanning tax returns. Understand, though, that these problems don’t exist because of laziness or governmental inefficiency. They, and many more, exist because a large minority of our population votes for people whose words and deeds evidence a desire for governmental failure. Why? To win, I guess. Who knows? But when the patron saint of the Republican Party, Ronald Reagan, told us “government is not the solution to our problem: government is the problem,” none of what we see today should surprise us.


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