Theodore M. David, Chair, Tax Law Committee
1) The Crime Season
2) The Real “Holidays”
1). Santa’s tiny reindeer clip-clop across your roof. Poor unsuspecting evergreens have been yanked out of the ground and covered by all manner of plastic doodads. Some folks light real candles nightly and pray that they don’t need their fire insurance. Oh, it’s the Holidays!
Once the celebration is over, the pain begins. I don’t mean just paying off all those credit card bills. No, not by a long shot. It’s the start of Tax Season! Now tax administration in the United States is based upon voluntary compliance. Every citizen has the opportunity to step up and deal directly with his or her government. Ben Franklin said a citizen must “Turn square corners.” I think he meant trying your best to be honest. These days behind baseball, football and now soccer is the annual sport associated with filing an income tax return. It is a wonderful game and can be played by anyone with a decent income. No particular training, affiliation or uniform is necessary. Whether you choose to use TurboTax or simply a well-sharpened number two pencil, the result can be the same.
The object of the game is to pay the least amount of tax possible under the most strained interpretation of federal tax law. Those players who are picked up for audit by the Internal Revenue Service Examination Branch are immediately disqualified. To be frank, many accountants are very good at this game and have earned a tidy sum over the years with not a disqualification in sight. Some tax preparation programs actually will give you the likelihood of a civil audit! This is a vast improvement over just guessing what your odds are of surviving tax audit season.
Now let’s be clear about one thing. IRS is well aware of the tax game. They play it too. They use a great deal of smoke and mirrors to convince taxpayers that they are there watching your every move. Those damn computers do, in fact, tend to match up information supplied by payers to items missing on individual tax returns. But in many cases, game players enjoy the suspense associated with not knowing whether they will be caught. In most cases, only a tiny bit of interest and a few dollars worth of penalty make the game worth playing. If interest and penalties were the only tools the IRS could use to get voluntary compliance, I am sure voluntary compliance would go the way of the Sony Walkman.
But there is more to this game! It is the IRS criminal division! Around the holidays, the IRS announces the results of criminal activity and the punishment of tax evaders. It is no accident. It is the IRS’s contribution to the tax game. This year is no exception. Just recently, the IRS declared that in the fiscal year 2022, IRS criminal investigation initiated more than 2,550 criminal investigations, identified more than $31 billion in tax and financial crimes, and obtained a 90.6% conviction rate on cases accepted for prosecution. You can go to the IRS website under the fiscal year annual report and get the details if you have the stomach for it. So do play the tax game but be aware that though the odds are small, there can be some nasty consequences. Enjoy the Tax Season.
2). Now, continuing the theme of honesty and trying to connect it to this Holiday Season, I submit this poem for your jaded enjoyment:
Holidays and conflict go together,
Like ribboned gifts and winter weather;
Christmas cheer with those who rate,
Who sit beside those you hate.
There’s snow and tension in the air;
Season’s Greetings yet tempers flare;
Who but Santa survives this blast?
And even he leaves rooftops fast.
Bells that jingle that all is well
Try to hide this Christmas hell;
New Year’s soon, toasts on high;
Resolutions to do or die.
All is forgiven for those so near
Let’s give them one more year!
The Holidays, thank God, last for but a week,
Then quiet times we are left to seek.
Make the Most of the Holiday……
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