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Angry, crazed man plunges plane crashes into IRS building in Austin, TexasThursday, February 19, 2010 A software engineer from Austin, TX furious with the Internal Revenue Service launched a suicide attack on the agency Thursday by crashing his small plane into an office building containing nearly 200 IRS employees, setting off a raging fire that sent workers running for their lives. The pilot identified as Joseph A. Stack, 53.

Law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still going on, said that before taking off, Stack apparently set fire to his house and posted a long anti-government manifesto in the Internet.

My condolences to all involved, including the victims and their affected families.  

The incident appears to have been the culmination in a series of unfortunate circumstances — revolving around a prolonged dispute between the perpetrator, Mr. Stack, and the IRS.  I also cannot help to believe that this outcome could have been avoided if Mr. Stack had not gone through the IRS tax review process alone.  It is very much akin to someone going into court alone, with the odds all supposedly favoring the other side.  In a courtroom, litigants normally need competent attorneys to represent them — in the context of the IRS, Mr. Stack probably would have benefited from the services of a competent tax representative.  The idea is the same, that a citizen does not need to stand alone and with a feeling of being virtually defenseless against overwhelming forces.

For example, although a  tax representative could not compel the IRS to produce a favorable outcome, they could — at a minimum — have compelled the IRS to ‘play fairly.’  It seems that this issue was at the center of Stack’s frustration.  A tax representative could have leveled the playing field so as not to have been so skewed against Stack.  No, it does not excuse his response, but it would potentially explain how he ended up making his unfortunate, tragic choice.  There were remedies there for Stack — he was unfamiliar with the process, and thus unable to identify those mechanisms specifically established to help him, including the Taxpayer Advocate’s Office, as well as the Treasury’s Inspector General.  He had rights — however, he was ill-equipped to recognize those rights and effectively assert them before the IRS.  Perhaps … just perhaps … competent and knowledgeable tax representation could have avoided a situation that should never happen in these United States.

Patrick H. Wright

Tax Consultant