Don’t Be Afraid to Cry Wolf!
Rodolfo F. Acuña
Growing up in an immigrant household, I was always aware my parents were super careful as if they did not want to make mistakes. They repeated fables were such as la Llorona and the Cucuy, the mythical bogeyman. My father’s favorite fable was “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” about a shepherd who sounded the false alarm so often that when the wolf was finally there the people did not believe him so the wolf ate him up.
The fable was to caution us not to tell lies. “Peter and the Wolf” has taken more relevance lately. Immigrants are afraid of calling authorities even when present danger is present, e.g., sexual assault and homicide. No one wants to be a cry baby or an alarmist. So we often bite our tongues, afraid to set off a false alarm.
Although caution is at times good, it can be dangerous. For the past thirty-three, for example, I have not cried wolf because the Internal Revenue Service without provocation has questioned my tax returns. What is frustrating is that the auditors repeat the same questions about work related travel. It is obvious that the auditors have no background in academic research. Professors, according them, sit in libraries.
In my case, I am a professor, author, newspaper columnist, blogger and researcher. I travel a lot. The County of Los Angeles is the most populous county in the United States. LA County is larger than 40 of 50 U.S. states. Mexican America/Latino communities are larger than most nations.
This year disturbing new facts have made it clear that wolf will not go away. The IRS hit me with a multi-year audit, asking questions resolved since the 1980s. I alerted Chicano/Latino politicos that the wolf was endangering their constituents. I wrote to Xavier Becerra whose staff told me to contact my congressman. The other saviors of the Latino community did not bother replying. Perhaps they are afraid of the Big Bad Wolf.
I learned that audits in my category were no longer conducted in LA but out of Memphis, Alabama, Georgia, Missouri and Red States that are culturally and geographically alien to Los Angeles. In other words, I am being evaluated by non-academicians, people who have never published, never been in Los Angeles, and are unfamiliar with my line of work. My accountant asked for the case to be transferred to LA. The IRS agreed to but then reneged.
It gets worse: Ms. Higley (IRS FOIA Office) from Atlanta, Ga who reviewed my FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request admitted she has never been in LA, but could not honor my FOIA request because I was not specific enough. She wanted dates and specific violations. This is despite the fact that the taxpayer is not obligated to keep records for more than seven years. Ms. Higley said that the IRS destroys their records after ten years. (I commented that this is a historian’s nightmare, and precisely why Donald Trump is able to avoid paying taxes; the IRS destroys their historical memory.
I have sufficient cause to believe that I am being targeted. During my last audit circa 2012, I was able to meet with the Los Angeles IRS Office. The supervisor admitted that an agent Johnson from another office had been sent to LA specifically to audit me. According to the supervision, the Los Angeles Office had a difficult time controlling him.
It is strange that I am always audited during times of political tension. So I want to know if outside sources are fingering me. It could be just a case of harassment or have more sinister motives.
I fear that the IRS is setting a dangerous precedent. A Los Angeles Taxpayer should be reviewed by his or her peers – not by someone from Los Angeles; an auditor with enough specialized knowledge to make a reasoned judgment.
It is unreasonable for Los Angeles taxpayers to travel to southern states. The cost for my wife and I to fly to Memphis or any of those Right to work states is prohibitive. Moreover, auditors should know the work backgrounds of who they are auditing