If taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society, a new report from the Internal Revenue Service indicates we might not be that civilized.
According to the IRS, an annual $458 billion gap exists between how much taxpayers owe and how much taxpayers actually pay. For context, that’s more than the federal government spends on education, housing, transportation and food assistance –combined.
Of the $458 billion shortfall, just $52 billion will be collected though enforcement and fines, according to the report. That leaves the standing gap around $400 billion – which is about where it’s been for the past decade. Which is to say: We have a structural gap in public revenue collection that we’ve come to accept rather than address.
Now, it would be easy to blame the IRS for this failure to collect all the taxes Americans owe. After all, it’s their job to do just that. But that would miss the mark.