The acronym IRS strikes fear and hatred in the hearts of many Americans. But as John Oliver pointed out during Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight, our tax-time complaints – over monetary woes, mathematical annoyances, long lines and dropped calls – should be directed at Congress, not the IRS itself. The host has the perfect analogy to summarize the agency’s necessary evil. “Think of our government as a body,” he says in the above clip. “The IRS is the anus. It’s nobody’s favorite part, but you need that thing working properly or everything goes to shit real quick.”
And because his British sensibilities won’t allow him to apologize directly, Oliver calls in pop balladeer Michael Bolton to serenade the IRS with an altered version of his 1989 hit “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” – making up for all the years of name-calling directed at the agency. “How are we supposed to live without you?,” he belts. “You never miss your anus till it’s gone.”
“Like clockwork, tax season brings with it an annual gnashing of teeth,” Oliver says to open the clip, detailing the fresh round of headaches resulting from complications in tax forms. A CBS report cites that only 40 percent of callers get through to the IRS with questions, leading to five million “courtesy disconnects” – or, in regular person terms, “hang-ups.” (“You can’t just put a nice word in front of an unpleasant one and change the meaning,” Oliver jokes. “It’s like the phrase ‘politely decline’ or ‘Care Bears’ — they’re still bears. They’ll rip you the fuck apart. They’re bears — it’s in their blood.”)
Still, Oliver wants us to feel a “small amount of sympathy” for the IRS – employees who hold boring, complicated and thankless jobs. Consider a 2011 interview with Nina Olson, the IRS’ National Taxpayer Advocate, who claimed that one calendar year brought 579 changes to tax law. (“The only document that should change that often is the Wikipedia page for Bill Cosby,” Oliver jokes.) In a segment for the 2007 documentary Inside the IRS, one employee at a processing center matter-of-factly discusses people mailing in checks smeared with mustard.
Oliver also details the major budgetary cuts handed down to the agency by Congress in recent years. “The fact is, blaming the IRS because you hate paying your taxes is a bit like slapping your check-out clerk because the price of eggs has gone up,” says the host.