Friday, October 17, 2008


I turned 60 years old this year. That was some months ago. I spent most of my life working for the government, the Internal Revenue Service, mostly. I think I began with them about 1971, working at the Ogden Service Center in the code and edit section.

I don't know how many were employed in the same work I did there, but it was probably one hundred or more people doing the same work with their pencils with brown lead. It was assembly line work. While we weren't assembling a vehicle or some sort of tool to sell, we were perfecting tax returns that had been filed by people so that the figures and numbers and data upon them could be entered into the rudimentary computers of that era.

All of the tax returns back then were filed on paper; none were filed electronically. The returns themselves came in various formats, and the ones I saw were for the most part all filled out in someone's hand writing, a taxpayer's or preparer's or preparer's worker's. Since there was no uniformity imposed and because of the diversity of people's abilities to write and print clearly, I'm sure you can imagine that coding and editing was necessary in order to determine just what was on paperwork submitted and what should be entered into the computer. I did that coding and editing based upon strict guidelines that were given to all workers in comprehensive training provided over several weeks

Once fully trained, the work became competitive. Since it was seasonal work and people were furloughed as the workload tapered off, the length of time a person worked was determined by their productivity and quality. So for most people, the incentive was to be very productive and to do high-quality work in order to stay employed the longer period of time.

I was married at the time. Some of the time my wife and I did the same work for the IRS. In any event, while employed we were also full-time students at Weber State College. I worked for IRS at the Ogden Service Center for three seasons. The work usually lasted, as I recall, from late November or early December to early summer, when we would be furloughed. In January, 1973, our first daughter was born. After I was furloughed that season, I went to work for the federal government.

That fall, when we returned to IRS, my wife and I began interviewing for other full-time and better-paying jobs with the IRS. By then we had finished our studies and had graduated from Weber state with our baccalaureate degrees. We interviewed for jobs in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Miami, Chicago, and some other large cities I've probably forgotten about by now. Eventually, the interviewers offered us jobs in Rockford, Illinois. (They were concerned that we might not fit in so well in the larger cities.) Our training took place in Chicago, downtown. It went on for months. Finally, we were able to go to Rockford for a while where we purchased a home. Then we went back to Chicago or still more training

Eventually we worked as tax auditors in Rockford. We audited in those first years mostly individuals, simple matters like dependency exemptions, employee business expenses, itemized deductions, and filing statuses. Over time, we became more and more sophisticated as auditors, and they expected us to do more and more complex audits, including audits on small businesses and farmers.

I think you can generally say that most people don't like to be audited. It's an inconvenience, but it usually results in additional tax too. One reason for that is that the tax returns that IRS generally audits have statistically a higher probability of error. It is likely that if you get audited, you will end up owing additional tax and possibly some penalty. People cheat. People make mistakes. Representatives of people make mistakes. People take risks. People like to take advantage of ambiguities. People jump to erroneous conclusions. They're all sorts of reasons why people overstate or understate or make some mistake that results in additional tax.

I worked as a tax auditor there in Illinois for a couple years and then we moved out to California. At the time, we were offered jobs in two locations: in Laguna Niguel, California and in Walnut Creek, California. We had no connections in California in the area of Los Angeles or Laguna Niguel. However, chilies and an uncle had at one time lived in Walnut Creek, and their daughter and son-in-law lived there at the time. We figured we would move there because of that connection. (In a real sense, we weren't afraid to move anywhere because we felt that as members of the church we would be welcomed wherever we went.) Anyway, we ended up moving and the IRS got the notion that we shouldn't be working in the same office, which we had been doing for over two years already. Anyway, they were insistent and so Shelley worked in Walnut Creek and I worked in the Oakland.

All of this time we had not had any more children, and we had begun to explore reasons for that, without any positive success, and it didn't look like we would be able to have any other children. We began contemplating the possibility of adoption. That wasn't a realistic possibility though, at least not in going through the church to do it, with Shelley still working. So we kept our eyes out for job opportunities for me closer to our Utah roots with the intention of me working and Shelley staying at home. Eventually, I obtained a job as tax auditor for IRS in Twin Falls, Idaho. We moved there after a short stint in California.

Once in Idaho we began the process of adopting. On my birthday in 1979, we were informed that we would be getting a son, born in Napa, Idaho. At about the same time I was informed that I had been selected to become an appeals officer with the Internal Revenue Service in Boise. So we moved to Boise with our new son for my new job.

Thereafter we adopted two other children, not through the church, of Asian descent, both coming to us out of Korea.

I served as an appeals officer in Boise from 1979 to 1985, by which time Shelley had began working again for IRS. Shortly after she started working again, she discovered that she had cancer. Testing revealed that her cancer was very advanced, and would require rigorous treatment, both chemotherapy and radiation therapy. At the time, we felt it more prudent to see if we couldn't get a transfer to Utah to be closer to our families for support and because of potentially better medical care. The IRS granted us hardship transfers at our own expense to Utah.

So from 1979 on, I worked as an appeals officer with the Internal Revenue Service. In about 2000, I worked for a period as an associate chief, a managerial position, for appeals division of the Internal Revenue Service. I didn't particularly like management though, and I chose to revert back to appeals officer.

As an appeals officer, my work involved resolving tax disputes between taxpayers and the compliance workers' determinations. Some have compared it to the work of an administrative judge. Probably though, it is less formal than that type of work and has more discretion to it. As an appeals officer, one has the ability to recommend compromises. These compromises are worked out because of doubt as to conclusions of fact and law.

Let me give an example. I'll try to keep it simple. Let's say an individual has operated an activity of breeding and raising horses for sale on a piece of ground they inherited. They have claimed on their tax returns losses relative to the activity for the past five years. They maintain they are in a trade or business, while the person who audited them for the IRS claims that they were raising horses only as a hobby and their losses should not be allowed as a tax benefit. So there is a controversy: the taxpayers saying that it was a business and the auditor saying it was a hobby. The appeals officer's job is to evaluate the respective sides and to attempt to get a resolution with the taxpayer. An appeals officer's work is not tantamount to mediation, although appeals also does do mediations. (I did some of that work for them also.) The appeals officer is charged with evaluating the taxpayers' chances in litigation. If he thinks the chances are about even with the IRS, he recommends a 50-50 split if the taxpayer makes that offer. And so on. The job involves evaluating the hazards surrounding law and fact.

This all leads to the purpose for this lumbering post. I have carefully studied the respective positions relative to same-sex marriage in a like manner and have made an evaluation of it. Not only did I do so with as much information on all sides as I could get my hands on, but I also took the matter before the Lord in prayer. I have made a decision relative to it. At this particular point in time, I have no ability to do much of anything about my decision. That is, the issue isn't up for political consideration here in Utah. It is in California. Nonetheless, I feel strongly about my position and about my right to pronounce it when I feel the need to do so. Others, however, appear to believe that I don't have that right or, even if I do have it, it is imprudent to do so and unfaithful to pronounce it over against the church's position.

Last night, a dear friend and a wonderful soul became distraught during a conversation we had over the subject, and she got up and left a conference room we were gathered in without bidding me or the others involved in the conversation adieu. Her distress makes my heart sick. The situation is amplified by the fact that after meeting, after meeting together weekly for going on a couple of years now I think, she was saying goodbye to move to California with her husband, where he is embarking on a legal career.

I don't know what to say but to say I don't know what to say. I suppose my friend is sorrowing because she believes I am in apostasy, and that my position, and the position of others aligned with me, will have detrimental effects upon society and, in particular, the family. I attribute nothing but the best of motives to her.

My best to you, my friend.

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