When I was Audited by the IRS: Ronald Reagan’s War on Education

Oh, you got a fellowship! Bend Over!!!!!!

Oh, you got a fellowship! Bend Over!!!!!!

A lot of bloviation is occurring on how the IRS actually did its job and scrutinized the applications for new tax-exempt organizations. Turns out that hit the conservative motherfuckers a bit hard, since they have a lot of astro-turf, and they falsely represent their political involvement.

But, those are just corporations, being scrutinized based on the criteria for corporations to continue to exist without paying taxes (and benefiting from myriad tax breaks). No real humans were actually investigated by the IRS, only fraudulant political organizations.

The politicization of the IRS began in the second half of the Reagan presidency. Most of the efforts were directed against young people starting their careers. The targets were people–real people— who held ” lucrative” scholarships at research universities. Raygun was at war with those pointy headed intellectuals, and so he thought of this as a means of accomplishing “stereo divestment”, as if us graduate students used our grants to buy electronic equipment. For those too young, that was a reference to the anti-Apartheid movement, which sought to move university money away from corporations that sponsored the racist regime in South Africa (I was once the president  of the anti-Apartheid group at the University of Tulsa).

At the beginning of his second term, Raygun sicced his IRS goons on everyone and anyone who received a fellowship, no matter how small. I had won two essay contests my senior year ($1500), and then my fellowship at Duke was also service free. I wound up paying almost as much in penalties as I won for the essay contests, and had an additional $1500 tax bill added to two years of graduate funding. The war on education was mounted by Raygun, and he did a great job of making sure that anyone who wanted to succeed would suffer. I was audited three years in a row, starting in 1989, backdated to the 1987 tax year. During most of the period I was an undergraduate or graduate student making almost nothing, and I was married with a kid to boot. I was targeted for audits for three years because the IRS was directed to harass college students on fellowships. Raygun wanted to squeeze us for what little we had, while relieving his fat cat donors from their “tax burden.”


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