Continuing the discussion from Chat Room/Open Topic Experiment:
Tax auditors hurt people. (Lots of jobs hurt people, but most don’t have the power to fine someone $10k or even to force someone to deal with an issue instead of ignoring you.)
To limit the harm, tax auditors must judge who was highly malicious, and bend the rules for many regular citizens who just screwed up (instead of trying to scam the government in a major way). This conflicts with:
I think this is my first properly structured job in the sense that there’s very little stuff happening that isn’t covered by documentation/regulations (i.e. it’s all by the books).
Judging malice is hard because everyone cheats on their taxes. (Not really everyone, but a lot of people.) Small cheating is normal and should basically be forgiven without hurting the person significantly. Sometimes the rules work OK for that and sometimes they are way too harsh. Only a tiny fraction of people are cheating in some kinda big way that actually needs to be cracked down on.
Bending the rules is hard, even if you want to, because you can’t just tell your supervisor. You have to learn to navigate office politics. And there could be quotas or some other kind of encouragement to catch lots of stuff. The incentives might not recognize or reward someone who focuses on catching big stuff. Also, some of the big cheats have friends in government who may pressure you to leave the case alone.
I’d guess a small minority of big cheats and mistakes are the constraint, but I’m not positive that they are (I don’t know the stats), and other people might disagree. I could see people believing that getting a little more tax revenue from large numbers of people could make a big difference, and wanting to make examples of random people to scare the rest into compliance. That kind of campaign that punishes some ~random people heavily is way worse to enforce than trying to find people who have more of an actual criminal mindset or people who made big errors.