1. They wanted to look friendlier, but they didn’t have much budget for it. So all they did was put a smiley-face in the “O” of their welcome mat. (Even with a lot of zoom, I don’t think I’d have recognized the smiley-face if I hadn’t already thought it might be that.)

  2. A nit: isn’t a welcome mat usually outside the door, instead of just inside it? I realize the artist needs to get everything into the frame, but couldn’t there be some way to do this and still have it make sense?

  3. The POV should be rotated 180 decrees, so we’re looking over the taxpayer’s shoulder into the IRS office, from about ankle level, so the welcome mat looms in the foreground and we’re looking up into the menacing auditor’s terrifying visage.

    My own interactions with the IRS have been largely completely polite and courteous, mind you, including doing some contract work for them.

  4. The people who work at the IRS are usually quite nice. They know people have financial issues. They know people make innocent mistakes. They’re only out to get you if you’re committing fraud or intentionally evading taxes.

    The smiley face on the mat cannot possibly be the joke. It’s too small to see!

  5. It’s in a dungeon. Note the manacle on the left and the wall+window on the right, and torture implements on the table.
    So … instead of a regular audit (with receipts) they are just going to beat a confession out of you?

  6. I think Andrea has it. The IRS wasn’t to be seen as a gentler, kinder organization but they don’t have the money to redo their image. The best they can do is a welcome mat. And the reality is that the person being audited is still walking into a interrogation chamber complete with single overhead light and torture implements.

  7. Yeah, I think Arthur has it. Like Powers, at first I thought it was too subtle for that to be the joke, but now I see that the man at the door is looking directly down at the Welcome mat.

    My interactions with this IRS have been nice also. A few times I called them for help, and everyone was very courteous and helpful. Twice I’ve made mistakes in my taxes (once in my favor, and once against) – each time they just contacted me and fixed it, without any fuss.

  8. They want to look friendly — they’re not out to get you; they want to help you pay your fair share, but not more than that. They just want to help everybody be good citizens.

    The problem is that they don’t have the budget even for decent lighting, meaning that their office is in dark, oppressive, threatening shadow. They’d LIKE to have bright, cheerful lighting, but they can’t afford it, leaving them in hostile, terrifying gloom.

  9. ianosmond, does your first paragraph refer to the actual IRS, or the IRS in this comic?

    The IRS in this comic has manacles on the walls, and torture implements on the desk, which they can’t blame on budget cuts. So I’d say the IRS in this comic is intentionally evil, but is interested in appearing good (albeit with insufficient budget).

  10. It’s true that putting the torture instruments (whip and pliers) in a drawer and out of view doesn’t cost anything.

  11. The wordy caption confuses things, but I think the humor is just the idea of being welcomed into a torturous interrogation. I don’t see any reason to think that they painted the smiley face on. The humor is that the evil IRS bought a welcome mat. That’s my take anyway.

  12. These days, the old-fashioned in-person audits are on the decline. Most these days consist of computers detecting something and kicking out a letter. The taxpayer generally responds by mail or phone.

  13. IRS is generally okay to deal with and generally somewhat intelligent people.

    NYS tax department on the other hand, I had a sales tax auditor on an audit for a client who did not understand the concept of accounts receivable. Client had accounts receivable balance before the start of the audit period and made additional sales during the period, and of course received payments during the period. Problem was that she had a sizable A/R balance from before and then her sales went down and she had a much smaller A/R balance at the end of the period. Her deposits were higher than her sales for the period as a result. (If anyone needs more explanation who is not a NYS tax auditor post and I will explain more.) Auditor insisted that the deposits paying off the prior A/R was additional income – even though it had been declared income in the period before this one. I had to let her close the audit that way and appeal it. But then she took off for maternity leave before finishing the audit.

    When I went to the appeal of course she did not owe the sales taxes the auditor said and I asked for a waiver of interest on the amount that we settled on for an assessment (she did not have sales tax exemption forms for all of the out of the state/ out of US sales she had made and had to pay sales tax on same) for the time the agent was out on maternity leave – the appeals officer was shocked she went on maternity leave without sending the assessment to client and we had the interest waived in addition to penalties for that period. (Normally penalties can be waived, interest cannot.

  14. And, of course, in addition to the torture implements still on the desk, the room is labeled “IRS Audit Cell”. One would think that without budget cuts the image makeover folks would have removed the word “Cell” from the door.

    And that they would replace the bars on the window with an actual window pane.

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