If you question your sanity when you receive that first threatening letter from the IRS.

Whop, whop, whop.

I always loved the sound of a UH-1. The two large blades made a very distinctive “whop” sound as they beat the air into submission.

That sound was the only thing I enjoyed about the Huey anymore after hundreds of training missions in them. And the fact that I slept well in them. It’s hard to explain, but the frequency of all that junk spinning around just resonated with my body, so my routine was set; buckle up, rifle down, eyes closed, sleep.

Euzeb Thibodeaux was Cajun through and through from his name right down to his love for food; hardly a summer went by since boot camp that we didn’t spend time by the pool with an ice chest full of beer and pot of “mud bugs” boiling with potatoes and corn. We had become close over the years, one of those rare people I called friend, although I really knew he was my best friend. He was named after his great grandfather and although he was proud of the history behind the name, he despised being tormented over it. I started calling him “Emeril” after our first cookout.

We had done this mission so many times that it simply fast-forwarded through my mind each time we launched. After fast roping onto the roof, Emeril would set up the spotting scope towards the compound across the street. The rest of the team would head down the stairs through the roof access door and execute their carefully rehearsed mission while we provided high cover.

“What the…”

It’s hard to describe the first time being shot at. Even when you are trained and prepared for it your reaction is unpredictable. One thing is for certain, you don’t forget it. I remember Hillary Clinton talking about “mis-remembering” her experience in Bosnia. It must be true because we all know that politicians never lie; I, however, can never forget my first experience.

I think it is impossible not to look in the direction of the sound. I don’t know if it’s part of the “fight or flight” instinct, our natural curiosity, or just because we are inherently stupid; whatever the reason, I looked across the courtyard and saw the brief flash from the scope in a window.

The second shot had a distinctively different sound; the zing was dulled by a thump; I locked my rifle into my shoulder and asked Emeril for the range to target.

“Range to target?”

“Range to target?”

I spotted my target, and it looked like he was about to move, so I took aim and fired.

“Come on Emeril, you need to give me that ranging data quicker than that.”

I couldn’t recognize him anymore; his face was imploded and most of the back of his head was scattered behind us on the roof. I thought I was going to be sick. I always thought I loved my job. This was the first time I ever questioned my sanity.

As you were sitting back enjoying the IMAX, the IRS eventually pushed the gurney into the room and hooks the IV up; and it’s not for a B-Complex injection, but rather the lethal injection. They are a humane bunch, though, and inject you with something to immobilize you first.

The IRS must have an entire section devoted solely to letter writing. They use a plethora of form letters designed to manipulate the recipient into responding in the appropriate manner. My guess is that the Chief Letter Writer is a psychiatrist who specializes in psychological warfare. His executive officer is almost certainly an attorney. Between the two of them they develop a plan to delude, deceive, threaten and coerce; they rarely fail.

The IRS’s first communication with a potential tax protestor is always a cordial one.

“Hello, Beloved. I am always so happy to receive your letters annually on April 15th. Much to my surprise I missed your letter this year. As you well know, my spirits leap with joy whenever I hear from you, so I have decided to wait until August 15th. I will keep the light on in anticipation of your next letter, love forever, IRS.”

After the automatic extension, the tone of the letters begins to change.

“Dear Friend, I am so worried, not having heard from you these many months. I fear that something terrible has happened to you, or worse. Please write soon, I am worried sick, call if you can, faithfully yours, IRS.”

“My Dear Thomas, I have heard through friends that you have met someone else. I felt it appropriate to write you directly to see if this were true. I simply refuse to believe that you would willingly dismiss me after so many years. Call me immediately; I am sure we can work this out. Sincerely yours, IRS.”

Up to this point, the IRS has made the general presumption that you merely forgot or overlooked filing and paying. For them, the worse case would be an inability to pay, but even then they are willing to work with you. Promise them several of your children, provide a few locks of hair and some vials of blood, and they will agree to a payment plan. At some point if you continue, however, there will be distinct change in the character of the communications.

“Dear Mr. Stevens. It has come to my attention that you ARE unfaithful. You should know that if you renew your vows to me I will agree to remove your picture from the post office. IRS”

Now the IRS makes it pretty clear that they KNOW what you are doing. They make a variety of assertions: “we have determined the position you are taking is frivolous.” “You have refused to pay what you owe.” And my favorite; “we have included the important pamphlet ‘Why you have to pay taxes’.” But, at some point, you push them over the edge and you get a very important letter titled: IMPORTANT.

“Guilty Bastard. I filed a lien against your life and existence. Don’t even try to challenge it because I have pictures of the Judge in drag.”

At this point, you have been referred to “enforcement” and the IRS starts ratcheting up the pressure. In typical Mafioso fashion, the Service starts by handcuffing you to the chair. The infamous “Notice of Federal Tax Lien” is proudly delivered to your door. The IRS is really proud of this particular document, so much so they generally insist upon delivering it themselves. They would like to think they are complying with some sort of requirement in doing so, but since the NOFTL is a total crock it is unlikely that they are doing anymore than poking around your house to see if you have anything worthwhile for them to steal.

It is important to note also that the IRS will try to maintain the illusion of legitimacy by offering you a Collection Due Process hearing. I always laugh at the name of this process; and I always feel like I am being offered a fair shake (due process) when I take a grievance committed by a snake into a den of vipers to be judged by a cobra. Everyone involved with the process is an IRS employee, and they have a history of impartial actions. But don’t despair; you can also contact the “Taxpayer Advocate” because these fairness warriors are, well, advocates for the taxpayer; by the way, they also work for the IRS.

Eventually the IRS will start taking things from you. By this point you know it’s coming, but they always catch you off guard. There is something spiritual about pulling out your debit card and finding out your bank has been cleaned out. The identity thief has nothing on the IRS; they have perfected the technique of raking someone over the coals. And you like it, because it’s legal. Isn’t it? Well that’s what they told me, and my employer, and my bank. I love how they tell you though: “the term ‘levy’ as used in this title includes the power of distraint and seizure by any means.” Also, “In any case in which the Secretary may levy upon property or rights to property, he may seize and sell such property.”

There of course is only one small (very small) omission in the paragraph that explains why the IRS can do such a thing; they somehow forgot to mention who the Secretary can levy property from. “Levy may be made upon the accrued salary or wages of any officer, employee, or elected official, of the United States, the District of Columbia, or any agency or instrumentality of the United States or the District of Columbia.” They hate telling you, or your employer or your banker this small detail. After all if they tell you right up front they miss out on all the fun of having to fight with you over your property (or rights to property).

Once they have stolen enough to satisfy their appetite, they do extend the courtesy of letting you know:

“It is not in my nature to gloat, but in your case I’ll make an exception. Do you remember that boat you were so fond of? It looks great in my driveway. I also re-landscaped the lawn we worked on together, next time you check your bank accounts you’ll see how I paid for it. Don’t bother calling the Sheriff; I am dating him now.”

These letters are all carefully drafted to illicit a particular emotion. First they are an attempt to restore a relationship. Then they establish a legal framework. Finally, they comply with an administrative illusion of due process, but only to the extent that they try to instill in you a total sense of hopelessness and despair.

At this point it is important to note that you might be a tax protestor if you question your sanity when you receive that first threatening letter from the IRS.