Years ago, Steve Martin used to have this terrific routine he'd resurrect around tax season.
He told audiences that you could be at once a millionaire and not pay taxes. First, he said, get a million dollars. Then, when the taxman came around charging you didn't pay your taxes, you could sidestep any legal ramifications and penalties with two simple words:
Since having both a million dollars and not paying taxes are two things that have eluded me all my adult life, I can't vouch for the effectiveness of his strategy. However, after more than a decade of covering the accounting profession, I have either read or personally covered a number of tax-avoidance stories predicated on equal or greater nonsensical debates.
I won't bore you with specific examples, because as many of you are veteran preparers, I'm sure you have over the years accumulated your personal archives of taxpayer excuses.
But with the end of tax season less than a month away, the IRS released its annual warning guide titled, "The Truth About Frivolous Tax Arguments," which regales readers with reams of taxpayer avoidance vignettes compiled over the years, but augments that with Tax Court decisions that Uncle Sam has used to punch holes in them.
The IRS sort of strongly suggests that anyone preparing to argue against the 16th Amendment - which incidentally has been law for 98 years - take a few moments to peruse the 84-page packet before they begin their transformation into Clarence Darrow and prepare opening arguments.
And not so long ago, lawmakers raised the penalties for frivolous tax arguments 10-fold, from $500 to $5,000, so either way, the service warns it's going to cost tax protestors both time and coin.
Some creative examples over the years have been that paying federal income taxes is a violation of the 13th Amendment (prohibiting involuntary servitude or slavery); that it violates moral or religious principles; or holding to the belief that only government employees are subject to paying taxes.
Over the past years, I've written in this space a number of times on the tax trial and subsequent conviction of actor Wesley Snipes.
In a multi-year saga to fight charges of evading millions in unpaid taxes, Snipes filed for more appeals than the Cardinal at Easter, but alas, is now living for three years in a federally funded gated community.
About the only thing he didn't try was "I forgot."
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