Thursday, April 15, 2010

Advice for the Civically Handicapped

Sometimes it seems like U.S. citizens either don't know or have conveniently forgotten information that is common knowledge for everyone else. Since today is Tax Day, I thought I'd bring up one that seems obvious but apparently bears repeating:

You have to file a tax return.

You may have heard somewhere or read somewhere that tax collection is voluntary, but and the IRS disagree. That second one is especially important, because they can throw your ass in jail whether you think you're supposed to pay taxes or not.

If you're not into Snopes, try USA Today. The tenth myth they listed? That paying taxes is voluntary. It's not. 'Voluntary' refers to us citizens sending the IRS our information, rather than the government having to tot up all our transactions and making its best guess on our deductions.

Okay, now you're saying that the government has the mainstream media issuing the party line. You'll get no arguments from me about that. This doesn't mean, though, that the IRS has no power to stuff you into the can for a few years. Even Wesley Snipes had to do time, and he's a well-liked celebrity who had prominent people pleading his case, plus some proof that his financial advisers had deceived him.

The income tax was first established during the Civil War to support war costs. It was dropped in 1872, but in 1913 the 16th Amendment gave Congress the legal authority to tax income. And the government doesn't balk at exercising that authority. When even Elliot Ness couldn't get Al Capone into prison, the IRS did.

Plus, give it a moment's thought. Do you really think that there's a secret group of wealthy cognoscenti that don't pay taxes because they have this special knowledge? You heard of it, didn't you? Do you think that they hire highly skilled lawyers who can beat the IRS at its own game? No, the wealthy cognoscenti are using offshore accounts to hide assets or buying their own congressmen to put loopholes in the tax law.

So... YES, you must file a tax return. You may not need to pay anything, but you should file. Just saying.

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