Passage of an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) overhaul bill in 1998 reflects the depth of American taxpayer frustration with the agency. We bring a constitutional, or rules of the game, perspective to tax enforcement. We examine political costs and benefits and agency discretion as reasons why tax enforcement by the government might deviate from the preferences of a representative citizen. We also examine prospects for reform. Lasting reform must alter the rules for deciding tax enforcement policy or the political pressures which yield excessive enforcement today will reemerge in the future.
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