Publication TypeCase Study
Year of Publication1996
AuthorsLadenson, R
Date Published02/1996
PublisherCenter for the Study of Ethics in the Professions, Illinois Institute of Technology
KeywordsACCOUNTING , professional responsibility , PUBLIC
AbstractRecently syndicated columnist Joan Beck contended that taxpayers who are subject to “superaudits” by the Internal Revenue Service ought to be compensated not only for out of pocket expenses, but also for their “time and aggravation.” In a superaudit the tax returns of randomly chosen people are subjected to intense scrutiny. The taxpayer has an obligation to prove every claim on her tax return, which, according to Beck, could include producing one’s marriage certificate to justify a joint return, and detailed records “to document every nickel of income tax deductions.” The superaudit can take a week or more, is highly intrusive, and carries the treat of criminal penalties. Superaudits are necessary, however, according to the General Accounting Office, because the IRS has no other information upon which to learn the devices people use to evade payment of taxes, so that it (the IRS) can target its regular auditing practices more effectively. Information obtained through superaudits has saved American taxpayers billions of dollars. Do individuals subjected to superaudits have a valid moral claim to be compensated for their time and aggravation? If so, why? If not, why not?
NotesCase from the February 6, 1996 Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl. ©Robert Ladenson, Center for the Study of Ethics in the Professions
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