Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A Very Taxing Situation

As a small business owner, I can attest to the fact that it isn't easy keeping up with the myriad forms and payments that must be made. If I am late filing a piece of paper or make a mistake on one of them, I get to pay penalties, interest, and fill out more forms. And just to keep things interesting, I get subjected to regular audits by my insurance company, or Texas Workforce Commission, or some other entity.

All of this takes a considerable amount of time. Last week alone I completed and mailed W-2's, a W-3, 1099's, a 1096, a 941, a report to the Texas Workforce Commission, a 940, and probably another form or two that escapes me at the moment. Fortunately, QuickBooks makes this relatively easy, but I must double-check all of the numbers since I subject myself to the potential of perjury charges every time I sign one of these forms.

Given the myriad forms I must complete, and the fact that my company's primary business is not filling out government forms, errors can occur quite easily. Some of the forms are so complex that I do not even attempt them--my corporate income tax and state franchise tax are two examples. Indeed, last year my accountant told me that nobody, including state lawmakers, knew how to complete the state franchise tax report. He said he would do the best he could with the information available, and I reluctantly wrote a check to the state. A month later I received a refund for the entire amount of my payment.

The entire process is beyond the comprehension of any individual. As evidence, consider Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. He filed incorrect income taxes for five years. And this is the man who is enforcing our tax laws. If the man enforcing the law doesn't know it, how is anyone else supposed to know it?

In his confirmation hearings, Geithner groveled, pleaded ignorance, and meekly apologized. That tactic doesn't work for the average citizen when he is hauled before an IRS auditor, yet the man who is running the federal government's money confiscation department gets a free pass.

And then there is Tom Daschle, the former nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services. The man who could have fronted the effort to nationalize health care failed to pay more than $120,000 in federal taxes. Instead of going to jail, Daschle was rewarded with the possiblity of a seat in the cabinet and the power to enslave doctors.

Obama's press secretary, Robert Gibbs, casually dismissed Daschle's failure to pay taxes. "Nobody's perfect," he said. This isn't an issue of perfection--this is an issue of demagogues setting rules for others and arrogantly exempting themselves. That Geithner was confirmed, and Daschle's nomination wasn't dead the moment his tax issues became known, demonstrates what the political elite thinks of the law.

None of this is a surprise. Non-objective law is not a series of strict, yet understandable edicts. It consists of the unknowable, subject to the whim and interpretation of the moment. Whether a particular action is a crime is determined by who you are, which Cabinet post you have been nominated to fill, or perhaps, who won the Super Bowl.

Drunk with power lust, Washington's politicians believe that they are the guardians of the American people. We are too ignorant to make decisions regarding our lives; we are too helpless to remain independent. And when they get caught with their hands in the cookie jar, or their pants around their ankles, they utter that time worn phrase nearly every child has heard, "Do as I say, not as I do."

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