The machinery for handling the collection of the internal revenue for a country as large as the United States must necessarily be extensive. Since the additional duties of assessing and collecting the Federal income and excess profits taxes has been added to the duties of the internal revenue department, a partial reorganization has been found necessary in order to expedite the large amount of business which it is necessary to handle.
Central Machinery. - The Bureau of Internal Revenue, which has charge of the collection of the excise taxes, as well as the income and excess profits taxes, is one of the divisions of the treasury department, under the direction of the Commissioner of Internal Revenues. The commissioner is directly responsible to the Secretary of the Treasury. Two advisory boards are provided - the legal advisory board, and the excess profits advisory board. The latter of these boards, as the title indicates, has to do with the collection of excess profits, while the other, which is composed of lawyers, must advise on the legal situations which arise in connection with assessments and collections.
The bureau is composed, at present, of six divisions, each of which is placed under a deputy commissioner. The first three divisions have to do with the regulations regarding the collection of the taxes, while the fourth has charge of their actual collection. The fifth division has charge over the inspection of returns, while the sixth division is sometimes called the Division of Business Co-operation. It is the function of this division to obtain as much cooperation as possible between the business interests of the country and the government. It has worked with the boards of trade and chambers of commerce in a campaign of education. This division also looks after the complaints, and invites suggestions for a greater perfection of the administration of the law.
Local Machinery. - The actual collection of the excise taxes is handled by local internal revenue officers. The United States is divided into sixty-four collection districts, and each is in charge of an internal revenue collector. It is to this officer that the individuals and firms of the district make returns and pay taxes. Returns are always examined, and if any serious errors occur may be sent back to be filled out again. The list of taxes for the month are calculated and sent to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, who in turn charges the local official with the amount of the tax, and makes him responsible for its collection. The local collector is expected to detect fraudulent returns, or to know that a return should have been filed, but was not, and to take proper steps to make rectifications. Even after the reports are turned in to the department, evidences of fraud or mistakes may be found, in which case an abstract is made and turned over to the field force of investigators in the proper district. These investigators are expected to be thorough and to ascertain the facts.
If taxes have been illegally assessed or collected a claim may be presented on an authorized form. The entire burden of proof rests on the claimant, and if his case is established, reimbursement may be secured through the revenue office of the district. The efficient machinery which has been developed is helping to make the internal revenue system, with its multitude of added burdens, a successful part of the fiscal program of the United States.