LSAT 90 – Section 4 – Question 01

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Type Tags Answer
Curve Question
PT90 S4 Q01
Weaken +Weak
+Easier 148.293 +SubsectionMedium

This is a Weakening question.

In Weakening questions, we take away the support that the premise provides to the conclusion. We usually do this by identifying an assumption in the argument and stating the opposite of that assumption.

The stimulus says that the government’s tax collection agency (i.e., IRS) has not followed through on its plan, announced a year ago, to crack down on violations of corporate income tax law. This is the conclusion. And the premise for this conclusion is that audits are the primary tool for detecting such violations, and over the past year, not a single audit of corporate income tax returns has been completed.

So far, it sounds like the IRS is doing a pretty bad job following through on its plan. But wait, we’re not supposed to like this argument. We’re supposed to identify where this argument is weak.

If you feel this way at the end of a stimulus, that’s okay. Just remind yourself to be skeptical and then look at the answer choices. Perhaps one of them will clue you in on where the argument is weak.

Answer Choice (A) says the plan to crack down on violations of corporate income tax law is part of a broader campaign against corporate misconduct. So who cares if some other agencies like the SEC or the FTC also announced their plans? We are discussing whether the IRS followed through on its plan, so (A) is entirely irrelevant.

Answer Choice (B) says the number of personal income tax returns audited over the past year is greater than in previous years. There is a big difference between corporate income tax and personal income tax, which makes (B) irrelevant. While (B) might become more relevant if you misread personal as corporate, (B) is useless as it currently stands.

Answer Choice (C) says most audits of corporate income tax returns do not reveal any significant violations. All (C) tells us is that, of the set of all audits of corporate income tax returns, only a minority revealed significant violations. How does this information even fit into the stimulus? It still stands that zero audits were completed last year.

Answer Choice (D) says it generally takes longer than one year to complete an audit of a corporate income tax return. This reveals the naive assumption the argument made. For example, if it only takes three months to complete an audit and the IRS had completed zero audits, we can say it did not follow through on its plan. However, if it takes more than a year to complete an audit, the IRS could have followed through on its plan by having initiated many audits in the past year even though none were completed.

While the information in (D) does not challenge the truth of the premise, it changes its significance. The fact that the IRS had completed zero audits now has no power to show that it did not follow through on its plan. This a quintessential correct answer choice in a Weakening question. (D) does not challenge the truth of the premise or the conclusion, but it does weaken the support that the premise gives to the conclusion.

Answer Choice (E) says that over the last five years, fewer audits of corporate income tax returns have been completed than in the preceding five years. (E) might relate to the argument by revealing the reason why the IRS said they were going to crack down on tax violations. They might have realized that they are auditing less than they used to and decided to pick up the pace. But even so, this does not weaken the argument.

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