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Texan's letter to the IRS touches nerve around nation
Scripps Howard News Service


March 09, 2009

It began as a joke, a way to let off a little steam -- now "Dear IRS" has infiltrated the nation's newspapers, Internet blogs and Web sites, and it continues to spread.

Once tax season hit, Ed Barnett was feeling sour. After simmering for a few weeks, he poured his frustrations into a letter to the Wichita Falls (Texas) Times Record News, which was published Feb. 6.

In it, the Wichita Falls native and former Times Record News staffer apologized to the Internal Revenue Service for his inability to pay income taxes this year.

After listing several dozen reasons why -- he's already paid cigarette, dog license and social security tax, to name a few -- he asked for the same treatment Democratic Reps. Charles Rangel of New York, Chris Dodd of Connecticut, Barney Frank of Massachusetts, ex-Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D. and Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner received: "no penalties and no interest."

"I don't think people realize all the taxes we pay every day," Barnett said. "The letter wasn't meant to be a public service, but I think people are tired of the irresponsibility of Congress."

The nation's taxpayers seem to appreciate Barnett's cool sense of humor and playful jabs at government officials -- newspapers from Dallas to Florida have run his now-famous work. He's received calls from Arizona and Rhode Island for permission to share his letter. It's been forwarded back to his e-mail account multiple times from friends and family.

"It's pretty wild," Barnett said. "I'm sure it's going to get me audited! I had no idea this was going to happen."

While he's new to such widespread recognition and acclaim, this isn't Barnett's first letter to the paper, and it certainly won't be his last.

"I've already got another one cooking," he said. "It has to do with the handful of people making the nation's decisions. I'm like Reagan, I don't think government is the answer. It's the problem."

The self-proclaimed politics and news junkie said his family background has a lot to do with his regular input -- his great-grandfather, Ed Howard, founded the Wichita Daily Times, which is now the Times Record News.

"My grandfather took a risk back in 1907, and it turned out great," Barnett said. "Now they want to punish people who succeed. Small business creates jobs. We've never been an economy based on equal income. That's capitalism."

A newspaperman himself, Barnett started working at the Times Record News at age 10 or 11 and worked in just about every department until his departure in 1981.

"I still read the paper every day," he said. "Once it gets in your blood, it's hard to get out. It pains me to see so many newspapers struggling."

Not only does he feel for new entrepreneurs and failing businesses, he fears for his grandsons, ages 2 and 4.

"They don't even know what money is and they're in debt," he said. "I don't know how they're going to pay it all off."

Barnett hopes to do something before it's too late; he plans to secure his family's future.

"I've been looking to buy stock in the U.S. government," he joked. "When they end up with all the money again, I'd like to have a little part of that."

Despite his apology letter to the IRS, Barnett does plan to pay his taxes this year, "as long as there's enough left over."

To read the full version of Barnett's letter, visit and search "Letters to the Editor, February 6. (


Amanda Warner writes for the Wichita Falls Times Record News in Texas.
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