January 29, 2006

Paying Taxes: Sport or Folly?

J. Craig Williams:

Forgive me here if I take a position against taxes, but as you may know, it's a bit of a favorite American pastime.  It's OK for everyone else to pay taxes, just don't raise mine, and just don't ask me to pay any more than my fair share.  By the way, if I can figure out a way to avoid paying some of those taxes, don't begrudge my deduction.

It's admittedly a tough position to take knowing that lower tax dollars may mean that our men and women in green may not have enough armor, that the shuttle is built by the lowest bidder, our school teachers aren't paid sufficiently, and on and on, all the way down to the pothole across the street that is now big enough to swallow my left front end if I don't swerve in time to avoid it.

But I better stop before I talk myself out of complaining about taxes.  Who hasn't heard of the $400 hammer, after all?

This article about the IRS prosecuting lawyers who come up with tax shelters did more than strike me.  It's just plain wrong.  Think about it.  Congress passes laws that require us to pay taxes.  Once you establish the rules and write them down, it's up to the lawyers to figure out the loopholes and the way around them.  The tax code fills up 24 megabytes of space on my hard drive, which on my iPod leaves only enough room for Stairway to Heaven and The Long and Winding Road.  There really isn't much difference between the songs and the code anyway, but I digress.

So, when enterprising lawyers go out there and successfully figure out how to shelter money from taxes, the IRS takes aim and prosecutes the lawyers for being smart enough to figure out what they did wrong when they wrote the code.  I'm not sure if the lawyers are being prosecuted because they showed the ________ (fill in your own word) of the IRS and Congress to the rest of us or because the result of their work actually means less dollars in the government's hands and more money in our hands.

Sure, there's another way to look at it:  the lawyers actually did something illegal that was precluded by the code, and they should be punished.  As you can see just from these paragraphs, however, there's no such thing as black and white in the Internal Revenue Service code.  To prove that, all you have to do is look up section 61 that defines income and see what a mess the whole thing starts with.

If the IRS wants to collect money from us, how about making it simple?  You know, just like it was when we were kids and dividing up the spoils from the lemonade stand:  "One for you and two for me, one for you and two for me..."

Posted by James Zellmer at January 29, 2006 2:39 PM | Subscribe to this site via RSS:
Posted to Taxes