IRS Audits Single Mother For Not Making Enough Money

This is absurd. Via Raven’s Eye, Danny Westneat at the Seattle Times has uncovered a case in which the IRS audited a single mother with two kids, who earns $10 an hour at Supercuts and lives with her parents. What was their reason for doing so? Random selection? An incorrectly completed return? No, they just thought that she was too poor to be telling the truth:


“I asked the IRS lady straight upfront — ‘I don’t have anything, why are you auditing me?’ ” Porcaro recalled. “I said, ‘Why me, when I don’t own a home, a business, a car?’ ”

The answer stunned both Porcaro and the private tax specialist her dad had gotten to help her.

“They showed us a spreadsheet of incomes in the Seattle area,” says Dante Driver, an accountant at Seattle’s G.A. Michael and Co. “The auditor said, ‘You made eighteen thousand, and our data show a family of three needs at least thirty-six thousand to get by in Seattle.”

“They thought she must have unreported income. That she was hiding something. Basically they were auditing her for not making enough money.”

Seriously? An estimated 60,000 people in Seattle live below the poverty line — meaning they make $11,000 or less for an individual or $22,000 for a family of four. Does the IRS red-flag them for scrutiny, simply because they’re poor?

The IRS must either think that the United States is just filled to the brim with liars, or that they receive an awful lot of tax returns for people who don’t exist. A whole lot of people in this country, not just in Seattle, live under the poverty line — even though the poverty line is actually placed ridiculously low. And more still live above the official poverty line while still being poor. It’s usually not pretty. It’s sure as hell not just. And often, those people need the help of friends and family to get by. But as they will tell you, it can be done — because, simply, it has to.

As Westneat points out, it’s not as though low-income people can’t commit tax fraud. But choosing them as audit subjects specifically because of their low income is incredibly classist, and far from cost effective. It can also be just plain cruel and vindictive, as it turned in Porcaro’s case:


Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card

Close

Thanks for your support!

Did you enjoy AlterNet this year? Join us! We're offering AlterNet ad-free for 15% off - just $2 per week. From now until March 15th.