Dealing With Bureaucrats
I talk and write a lot about damage control, limiting the amount of damage bureaucrats intend on causing you. It’s really the basis of everything I do professionally. While it’s very satisfying helping people from North American, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, it also means I spend a good chunk of my day interacting with bureaucrats. Mostly the worst of the worst: tax agents. Today was no different and we started early.
Things didn’t start well at all, I didn’t think they would when the IRS agent’s pseudonym was “Mr. Johnson”. At one point I did state that was “a real unfortunate pseudonym you picked for yourself.” For those unaware, tax agents even lie about their names. Everything is false with bureaucrats, except their willingness to use violence to get what they want.
What you’ll encounter with bureaucrats, is the attitude is usually the same, they dictate the terms of resolving problems. They are very predictable, just fill out their forms and pay them. Despite the fact I never argue tax law, I stick to questioning the evidence the IRS relies on, Mr. Johnson could not resist accusing me of arguing tax law. After all, the previous agent made that notation on the account, it must be correct.
Mr. Johnson was bad enough, the next was even worse, Ms. Valenzuela. This woman was even more robotic. At one point I started talking to my client (it was a three-way call) about Ms. Valenzuela while she was ranting about filing a return; we were talking about how we were not going to accomplish anything when she was acting like a telemarketer reading from a script. Valenzuela didn’t seem to notice we were talking.
The good news is people who are very rigid in their behavior, are also easily manipulated. They’re predictable. We know tax agents believe they are never wrong, any opposition is automatically deemed frivolous. This rigidity can be used against them to get to a resolution.
After all, if they’re never wrong, then what’s the point of office of appeals?
Marc Stevens will be speaking at Libertopia Festival 2011 in San Diego
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