The chance that an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agent will take your paycheck or bank account, seize your car or other personal property, to satisfy a claim for unpaid income taxes, depends largely on where you live.
A comparison of taxpayer delinquent accounts closed out by IRS agents in fiscal year 1972, with the total number of levies and seizures in that year, shows a wide disparity in the IRS collection efforts from one state to another.
Taxpayers living in Maryland, for example, were most likely to have their wages or property seizes, with IRS taking such action in 55 percent of the cases.
In California, IRS agents resorted to levies and seizures in 37 percent of the cases; in Illinois, it was 28 percent; in Louisiana, 20 percent, in Wyoming, 15 percent.
The uneven way in which the IRS enforces collection of back taxes is typical of the way the agency generally administers the nation's Federal income tax laws.
As The Inquirer disclosed earlier this week, the IRS operates generally with a double standard, dealing swiftly and harshly with low and middle income taxpayers, moving leisurely and casually against upper income taxpayers.
The accompanying article, the fourth in The Inquirer series on "Auditing the IRS," is a profile of one upper income taxpayer, Thomas A. Shaheen Jr., a Washington money broker who managed to move his assets outside the United States in the midst of a supposedly intensive IRS investigation.