New York Times Wants Congress to be Nicer to IRS, Meaner to Apple


angry mob
Credit: eldeeem / photo on flickr

Today's New York Times contains a tale of two hearings: The fairly friendly dressing down of Apple CEO Tim Cook for his company's efforts to pay billions less in taxes by moving and keeping profits overseas vs. the hostile interrogation of Lois Lerner, who oversees the IRS's decision making process about tax exemptions for organizations and supervised the suppression and delay of applications by Tea Party–affiliated groups. 

Here's how Michael Shear tells it in "Torches and Pitchforks for I.R.S. but Cheers for Apple":

Wednesday's I.R.S. hearing felt like an inquisition — unforgiving, angry, prosecutorial.

Mr. Cook, by contrast, took his hot seat in front of senators who seemed halfhearted in their desire to beat up on the rich guy who makes their iPhones, and whose products are far more popular than they are.

"With him, they were just not going to go up against an American success story," said Neil Eggleston, a veteran Washington lawyer who has prepared many government officials to face a grilling at the hands of lawmakers.

Here's the heart of his take: 

One thing became clear this week on Capitol Hill: It is better to be a tax dodger than a tax collector.

Which is, frankly, nuts. The IRS got called up in front of the class because it (incompetently) used what should have been neutral administrative papershuffling for political ends, abusing the rights of private citizens in the process. Apple, by contrast, used totally legal mechanisms to minimize their tax burden, employing an army of lawyers to stay within the letter of the law. 

It looks to me like congressional pitchforks are pointed in exactly the right direction (for once).

Bonus: 3 reason to fear the IRS