Thursday, May 01, 2008

Tax Evasion - If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is

Category: Tax Law and Planning

Actor Wesley Snipes has been given the maximum jail sentence of 3 years in federal prison for his failure to pay over $15 million in taxes. Snipes legal team essentially relied on the age old excuse of "but he said it was OK" in trying to sway the judge that he shouldn't be held responsible for following some one's advise to just stop filing tax returns. The "he" in this were a group of "tax protesters" who sold a system to thousands under the auspices of "taxes are illegal and you don't have to pay". There are more details in the Orlando Sentinel. Well, life is tough ladies and gentlemen, and just because you don't want to do something doesn't mean that you don't have to do it anyway (think of kids who have to eat their vegetables).

It is hard to say what is most offensive about the Snipes case. It could be that we all pay our taxes, and who are other people to simply choose not to participate? If you want the tax laws change, that is what the elective process and democracy (and hiring lobbyists) is all about. Or, it could be that some people (look at any recent story from Entertainment Tonight for a list) believe that because they have wealth, they don't have to play by the same rules. Well, let me clue you in on one of Benjamin Franklin's most lasting adages "Certainty? In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes" (and there wasn't even an income tax back then). Or maybe it is that the role of a tax professional is and should be to make sure a person pays their fair share under the law - not more, and not less. Here, "tax protesters" bilked thousands of people that they had the secret of getting rich quick - no more taxes. And I am sure they made millions by selling this idea to people with a lot less resources then Mr. Snipes, whose suffering for their bad decisions will never make the front page (not that there should really be any sympathy for those who bought into the system - but what about their spouses and families?).

Well, we will just have to see how Mr. Snipes looks in his orange jumpsuit what it is not coming from a Hollywood costume trailer.


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