Okay, okay, I'm being melodramatic. Consider this a friendly reminder that taxes are due in less then 2 weeks. Timely that Powell's original essay by Richard Yancey's caught my eye. Yancey spent almost 13 years as a Revenue Office for the IRS and captured his experience in the book "Confessions of a Tax Collector: One Man's Tour of Duty Inside the IRS". In my life, I’ve imagined what it would be like to be a spy, actress, professional photographer, advertising executive, and president, but never a “Revenue Officer”. To channel Pam (from The Office), “I don’t think it’s many little girls’ dream…”
October 18, 2003: After twelve years, nine months and five days, my tour-of-duty was over. In a matter of hours, my manager would arrive in the office for the final, ironic act of confiscation. I sat at my desk that morning, staring at my computer screen, and none of my co-workers spoke to me. I was no longer one of them.
That afternoon I surrendered my credentials and my receipt book to my manager, a precise, no-nonsense "company man," whose political shrewdness was matched only by his technical incompetence. He was destined for great things in the Service; I was destined for oblivion. We respected but did not like each other, and our parting was strained, an awkward pall hanging over my "employee-closeout," the Service's euphemism for the final act of surrender, the last goodbye to my identity. As I walked to my car that mild, cloudless, breathtakingly beautiful fall afternoon, I touched my empty breast pocket. For almost thirteen years, I had carried my commission there, and now that commission was gone. "You will become what you do," my trainer with the Service had warned me in the beginning of my career. His words had proved prophetic, and now I wasn't a revenue officer anymore. I wasn't one of us; I was one of them.
On that following Monday, five new trainees began their careers with the IRS. I did not envy them, although, thanks to Congress, the Service is not the same beast it was when I came on-board in early 1991. The ranks of the revenue officer corps have thinned, new laws have made the collection of taxes a mind-numbing, complex task fraught with legal and ethical challenges, and the Service, like a great ship that has lost its rudder, drifts upon a sea of indecision, caught between a disgruntled workforce and a Congress hell-bent on limiting its ability to enforce the very laws it is charged with enforcing. The one constant over the years has been the public's perception of the Service as a heartless, intrusive, overbearing, unresponsive bureaucracy, at once incompetent and ruthless, all-knowing, all-powerful, and completely inept.
You will become what you do, and people will hate you for it.
A few months after my last day, I heard the story of one of the new-hires getting her hair done, not long after she came on-board.
"So, what are you up to now?" the stylist asked.
"I finally got a job," the trainee answered.
"Hey, that's great. Where?"
"You know, the IRS. The Internal Revenue Service."
The stylist abruptly ripped the apron from the trainee, spun the chair around and pointed to the door.
"Get out. Get out of my chair and get out of my shop and never come back here."
"But I can't leave now," the trainee protested. "You haven't finished my cut!"
"And I'm not going to finish it either. I want you to leave and I want you to leave now!"
The trainee left. In tears, she called her new boss, who listened sympathetically to the story and then said, "Welcome to the IRS." (Read more)