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Tax Filing Requirements For Americans

IRS Inc.

The writing has been on the wall for me since the TSA agent grabbed the Converse sneakers out of my then 2-year-old son’s hands to put them through the X-ray machine as I tried to explain to my sobbing child that the big rude man wasn’t stealing his favorite shoes.

Most of us have TSA horror stories. And we’ve all heard the far more horrible stories of extraordinary rendition by the CIA in the name of the War on Terror…the stories of torture by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq…the stories last weekend about the 16 Afghan villagers killed by an Army Ranger…

Those stories are sad and upsetting, but they’re far away. Over the past six weeks or so, I’ve been watching as a story that’s not nearly as horrific as 16 innocent people dying but that is much closer to home for me has been playing out.

The incremental degradation of the rights and freedoms guaranteed to every American by the U.S. constitution has continued now for decades…in the name of, first, the War on Drugs, then, the War on Terror…and, now, I guess, the War on Tax Guys…

Everything about the U.S. government today is a business, including, for example, airport security. The newest product for this business is those all-body scanners. The U.S. government conceived them, and now the U.S. government is consuming them. We poor travelers must succumb to them. We must give up any pretense of personal privacy and set aside any worry over personal health risks…or get left at the gate.

All in the name of security. Meantime, only the most naïve believe these things actually work. Take a look here for the story of one traveler who set out to debunk the idea that these scanners are a reliable part of any security protocol once and for all.

Airport security is an industry, a business…as is drug enforcement. Here I suggest a retooling. Rather than trying to make a business prohibiting the sale and the consumption of drugs altogether…make a business taxing said sale and consumption. As with cigarettes, as with alcohol. If someone wants to destroy his life over-using his drug of choice, Darwin’s theory says let him. Meantime, the state could be generating good cash flow.

Airport security…drug enforcement…and the IRS. This, too, is a business. The current revenue strategy is all about the penalties being imposed on those who misfile or who fail to file the proper forms. A guy who, say, inherits a bank account from his non-American uncle in Europe with US$50,000 in it and doesn’t realize he is supposed to report that account to the IRS can get hit with a US$100,000 fine…and jail time.

More forms. This is the current business agenda of the IRS. Institute more filing requirements and then invest in the staff to pay attention and chase down those who don’t meet them. Generate press releases when you identify a big fish who hasn’t filed or who hasn’t complied in some other way and are able to squeeze a fine out of him. Increase awareness for your brand.

Lief Simon

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