What is the IRS and what does it do? Understanding the basics

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is a government agency that is responsible for collecting taxes and enforcing tax laws in the United States. It plays a crucial role in ensuring that individuals and businesses comply with their tax obligations, which are critical for funding government programs and services. The IRS has been around for many decades and has undergone numerous changes to adapt to the ever-changing tax landscape. Despite its importance, many people still do not fully understand what the IRS does or how it works. This article aims to provide an overview of the IRS, its history, responsibilities, and operations. By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of the IRS and its place in American society.


The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is a government agency in the United States that operates under the authority of the Department of the Treasury. The primary function of the IRS is to collect taxes from individuals, businesses, and other entities that earn income in the country.

The IRS also enforces tax laws and provides assistance to taxpayers who need help understanding their tax obligations. For most Americans, filing an annual tax return is a requirement, and the IRS is responsible for processing those returns and ensuring that taxpayers are complying with tax laws.

Taxes are collected by the IRS to fund various government programs, including Social Security, Medicare, and national defense. The agency is also responsible for administering tax credits and deductions that can help reduce tax liability for eligible taxpayers.

Understanding the role of the IRS and the importance of taxes is crucial for all citizens. Failure to comply with tax laws can result in fines, penalties, and even legal action. By working with the IRS to stay compliant with tax regulations, individuals and businesses can avoid costly consequences and contribute to the greater good of society.

What is the IRS?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is a government agency responsible for enforcing tax laws and collecting taxes from individuals and businesses in the United States. The agency was established in 1862 by President Lincoln as an independent bureau of the Treasury Department. Since then, the IRS has played a critical role in generating revenue for the federal government and ensuring compliance with tax laws.

As a government agency, the IRS has a wide range of responsibilities related to taxes and tax enforcement. One of its primary functions is to collect taxes from individuals and businesses. This includes processing tax returns and issuing refunds to eligible taxpayers. The IRS also conducts audits and investigations to ensure that taxpayers are complying with tax laws. In cases where taxpayers fail to pay their taxes or violate tax laws, the IRS may take legal action to enforce compliance.

Overall, the IRS plays a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of the US tax system. Its enforcement efforts help to ensure that taxpayers are paying their fair share and that the government has the revenue it needs to operate effectively. As such, understanding what the IRS is and how it works is essential for anyone who earns income in the United States.

When was the IRS established?

The IRS, or the Internal Revenue Service, is a government agency that has been around for quite some time. In fact, it was established in 1862, during the Civil War, as a way to help fund the war effort. It was then known as the Bureau of Internal Revenue and had only about 50 employees.

Over the years, the IRS’s role and responsibilities have evolved, but its primary purpose remains the same: to collect taxes and enforce tax laws. Today, the IRS is responsible for administering the federal tax code, which includes everything from income taxes to estate taxes.

Taxation has been a contentious issue in the United States almost since its inception. The country was founded on principles of limited government and individual liberty, and many Americans have historically been suspicious of any entity that collects taxes or has the power to do so.

In the early days of the country, taxes were primarily collected by state and local governments, with the federal government having only limited involvement. This began to change during the Civil War, when Congress passed the Revenue Act of 1861, which imposed a tax on personal income for the first time in U.S. history. The following year, the Bureau of Internal Revenue was established to administer the new tax.

In the decades that followed, the federal government continued to expand its role in taxation, passing new laws and creating new agencies to enforce them. The income tax, which had initially been introduced as a temporary measure, became a permanent fixture of the tax code in 1913 with the passage of the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Today, the IRS is one of the largest and most powerful government agencies in the country, employing more than 70,000 people and collecting trillions of dollars in taxes each year. Its history reflects the complex and often contentious relationship between Americans and their government when it comes to taxation.

What are the responsibilities of the IRS?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is a government agency that plays a crucial role in the collection of taxes and enforcement of tax laws in the United States. In addition to these functions, the IRS also provides assistance to taxpayers in various ways.

One of the primary responsibilities of the IRS is to collect taxes from individuals and businesses. This involves processing tax returns, assessing taxes owed, and enforcing payment of taxes. The IRS uses various methods to ensure compliance with tax laws, including audits, liens, and levies.

Tax law enforcement is another important responsibility of the IRS. The agency is responsible for investigating and prosecuting individuals and businesses that violate tax laws. This includes cases of tax fraud, evasion, or non-compliance. The IRS has a dedicated Criminal Investigation division that works closely with other law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute tax-related crimes.

Apart from enforcing tax laws, the IRS also provides assistance to taxpayers in a variety of ways. The agency offers free resources and information on its website and through its toll-free hotline. Taxpayers can call the IRS for help with filing their tax returns, resolving disputes, or understanding tax laws. The agency also offers programs to help taxpayers who are struggling with their tax obligations, such as installment agreements, offers in compromise, and hardship relief.

In conclusion, the responsibilities of the IRS are multifaceted. The agency is responsible for collecting taxes, enforcing tax laws, and providing assistance to taxpayers. Understanding how the IRS operates and how it can be of assistance is essential for complying with tax laws and avoiding penalties.

How does the IRS work?

The IRS is responsible for ensuring that taxpayers comply with tax laws, and this involves a number of different processes. One of the key ways in which the IRS works is through tax returns. Taxpayers are required to file their tax returns every year, providing details of their income, deductions, and other relevant financial information. The IRS uses these returns to calculate how much tax each taxpayer owes.

However, not all taxpayers file their tax returns accurately or on time, and this can lead to audits. An audit is an examination of a taxpayer’s books and records to verify that they have reported their income and expenses correctly on their tax return. Audits can be conducted randomly or in response to specific information that suggests that a taxpayer has underreported their income or claimed excessive deductions.

If a taxpayer is found to have made errors on their tax return or failed to report all of their income, they may face penalties. Penalties can take many forms, including fines, interest charges, and even criminal prosecution in some cases. These penalties are designed to discourage taxpayers from engaging in fraudulent or deceptive activities, and to ensure that everyone pays their fair share of taxes.

In addition to enforcing tax laws through tax returns, audits, and penalties, the IRS also offers assistance to taxpayers who need help understanding their tax obligations or resolving disputes with the agency. This can include providing guidance on the tax code, offering payment plans for delinquent accounts, and working with taxpayers to resolve issues related to audits or penalties.

Overall, the way that the IRS works is complex and multifaceted, involving many different processes and procedures. By understanding these processes and working with the agency in a cooperative manner, taxpayers can ensure that they meet their obligations under the law and avoid costly penalties and legal troubles.

What happens if you don’t pay your taxes?

If you fail to pay your taxes, the implications can be severe. The IRS is known for taking strict action against taxpayers who don’t comply with their tax obligations. Here are some consequences of not paying your taxes:


If you don’t file your return or pay your taxes by the deadline, you’ll face various penalties. For instance, if you owe $1,000 or more in taxes, you may be penalized a failure-to-pay penalty of 0.5% of the unpaid taxes per month. This penalty can be as high as 25% of your unpaid taxes.


In addition to penalties, the IRS can also impose fines on you for not paying your taxes. These fines can add up quickly, making it difficult to catch up on your payments. You may also have to pay interest on any unpaid taxes, which can increase your financial burden.

Legal Action

If you continuously ignore IRS notices and don’t take any steps to repay your taxes, you risk legal action from the agency. The IRS has the power to garnish your wages, levy your bank account or other property, and even file a federal tax lien against your assets. A tax lien gives the IRS a legal claim to your property, which can make it challenging to sell or transfer ownership.

In conclusion, not paying your taxes can lead to hefty penalties, fines, and legal action by the IRS. It’s essential to file your tax returns and pay your taxes on time to avoid these consequences. If you’re struggling to pay your taxes, reach out to the IRS to discuss payment plans or other options available.


In conclusion, the IRS plays a vital role in enforcing tax laws and collecting taxes that fund various government activities. As taxpayers, it is our duty to comply with tax laws and regulations to avoid penalties and legal action by the IRS.

It is important to note that compliance with tax laws not only helps avoid legal troubles but also ensures that we are contributing our fair share towards the development of our society. Failure to pay taxes or evading them can negatively impact the economy and lead to reduced funding for public services such as schools, hospitals, and infrastructure projects.

Therefore, it is crucial to understand our tax obligations and seek professional advice if necessary. We should also keep accurate records of our income and expenses and file our tax returns on time to stay compliant with the IRS regulations.

In summary, the IRS may seem daunting, but with proper knowledge and compliance, we can fulfill our tax obligations without any stress. By doing so, we can contribute positively to our society and ensure a brighter future for ourselves and generations to come.
After understanding the basics of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), it’s clear that taxes play an important role in our society. The IRS is responsible for collecting taxes, enforcing tax laws, and providing assistance to taxpayers. Failure to comply with tax laws can lead to significant penalties and legal action. As citizens, it is our responsibility to remain informed on tax matters, file our returns accurately and timely, and pay our taxes. By doing so, we contribute to the functioning of our country and uphold the principles of justice and accountability. Remember, the IRS is not just a government agency; it is also a vital part of the social contract we have with each other as members of a democratic society.

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