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Mortimer Caplin Made Himself the Friendly Face of the IRS

July 26, 2019, The Wall Street Journal

Heads of the Internal Revenue Service, performing their necessary but unpopular duties, rarely attract much public notice. Mortimer Caplin, a dashing friend of the Kennedys and former college boxer, was an exception.

Mr. Caplin, who died July 15 at age 103, was the friendly face of the IRS. While leading the tax agency from 1961 to 1964, he sought to persuade the public that the IRS was on their side, ready to help them compute their taxes correctly and avoid legal trouble.

“The idea was to emphasize self-assessment—more accurate reporting of your income—instead of putting people in jail,” he said in a 2016 interview with Tax Analysts.

Wearing a bow tie and a kindly expression, Mr. Caplin appeared on the cover of Time magazine in 1963. After interviewing him, the financial columnist Sylvia Porter described Mr. Caplin as “loaded with charm.”

Read more in The Wall Street Journal.

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