I often wonder, at what point do intractable political positions end and lawlessness coupled with basic stupidity kick into overdrive?
Take the case of a neighbor of mine who became so incensed when a local service station implemented a cash-only policy after 10 p.m. that the constabulary had to be called and when it was over, he wound up paying a $250 fine for what would have been a $6 purchase.
Since we're slowly encroaching upon the annual 1040 filing deadline, I'll offer up as an example of this unfathomable strategy, the recent conviction of a "tax protestor," a term which, predictably, has become a 21st century euphemism for your garden-variety tax cheat.
I refer to veteran recidivist Irwin Schiff, who has already enjoyed a stay of roughly four years as a guest of the government for tax evasion.
Recently, Schiff was sentenced to 163 months in prison -- including 151 months for tax fraud and an additional year for contempt of court. He also was mandated to pay more than $4.2 million in restitution
In October, Schiff was convicted in federal district court in Las Vegas of conspiring to defraud the United States, aiding and assisting in the preparation of false income tax returns, filing his own false tax returns and evading the payment of millions of dollars in back taxes owed.
Prosecutors charged that dating back to 1995 Schiff aided thousands of taxpayers in filing false federal returns to the IRS reporting zero taxable income. Apparently, Schiff's Freedom Books business sold more than $4.2 million of books and tapes encouraging customers not to pay income tax.
The evidence presented at trial also proved that Schiff evaded the payment of more than $2 million in taxes he owed the IRS from 1979 through 1985.
The conviction marked the third time Schiff was found guilty for committing federal tax offenses.
And to think my father used to tell me I was a slow learner.
To put the length of Schiff's prison term in perspective, had he, for example, been convicted of first-degree manslaughter in lieu of tax fraud, he could have potentially received a sentence of one year less.
I'll admit I'm not the biggest fan of filling out 1040 forms, especially when I find myself completing the line that says, "this is the amount you owe," which for the last few years seems to be the rule rather than the exception. And yes, sometimes I want to yell and scream too.
But in Schiff's case we're not talking about an activist who was jailed, or worse, for fighting to eradicate basic human indignities or defend their rights. We're talking about someone who has made a career out of not paying taxes.
Faced with the long-term prospect of sitting in a cellblock until 2019, and shelling out $4 million in fines, or paying my taxes over the years, I'd happily have written the requisite checks.
Schiff, by contrast, will have a long time to mull whether it was all worth it.
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