I was always convinced that the quickest way to start an inflamed argument was to broach one of two topics: politics or religion.
However, after 10 years at the helm of Accounting Today I think I would also rank the touchy subject of taxes a slight notch below the above-mentioned topics.
I mean how many of you honestly feel you're paying too little in taxes? How about those who continually proffer theories about reforming the Tax Code?
What about inexplicable tax laws like those mandated on the residents of a neighboring village of mine who were saddled with paying sewer taxes for 50 years despite being on septic systems?
What about the growing legions who feel we shouldn't pay taxes at all, particularly income taxes?
To wit it almost saddens me that we come to the conclusion of actor Wesley Snipes' protracted battle against paying income taxes on approximately $37 million in income.
As most of you know by now, after countless petitions, claims of unfair trials and prejudiced juries, the action star was finally sentenced to serve three years on tax charges for failing to file his federal income tax returns for 1999, 2000 and 2001.
"I am very sorry for my mistakes and errors," Snipes said in a statement. "I acknowledge that I have failed myself and others."
While Snipes appeared contrite and theories of his gullibility and being misled by his accountant and others continue to roll in, I would argue that throughout this near decade-long charade, Snipes knew exactly what he was doing.
In 2000, he became involved with American Rights Litigators, run by one Eddie Ray Kahn, which purported to assist customers in resisting the IRS. ARL employees, including co-defendant Douglas Rosile, who was Snipes's accountant and tax preparer, sent reams of letters to the IRS challenging the agency's authority to collect taxes.
The main basis for their protest was the shopworn "861 argument" that the domestic earnings of individual Americans do not qualify as "income" under the law, because the earnings did not come from a listed source.
After his inculcation with the ARL culture, Snipes began sending long treatises to the IRS citing why the service was powerless to collect income taxes from him. He even had the audacity to send an altered Form 1040X in 2001 demanding a refund of $7 million for taxes that had been paid in error.
It gets even more bizarre, but a lot less like the simpleton at the country fair, trying to guess which cup is hiding the pea.
Snipes also claimed that as a "fiduciary of God, who is a 'nontaxpayer,'" he was a foreign diplomat (of which country, I'm not sure) who was not obliged to pay taxes.
He implemented the ALR credo into the accounting methodology of his production companies and thereby stopped deducting payroll and income taxes from employee paychecks.
Forgive my skepticism, but that does not come within three area codes of someone being duped. He was even terminated as a client by his own lawyers when then advised him to file tax returns.
So now, he gets a bed and three squares a day for three years and, I predict, like many actors and athletes who have been guests of the state, will emerge a bigger celebrity, his star higher than when he went in.
But in the interim, he'll have plenty of time at the prison library. I suggest he familiarize himself with the 16th Amendment in case he plans to resume his far less successful career as a tax protester.
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