The Great American Tax Dilemma

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Recently by Jerome Tuccille: Trump This!


The media has recently been filled with reports of taxpayer identify theft run amok. According to a Yahoo Finance story, the instances of American taxpayers having their identities ripped off by enterprising thieves, who then file tax returns in the victims' names using their social security numbers and collect refunds for themselves, is up fivefold in the past two years. The crisis is now approaching epidemic proportions.

It's bad enough that our modern-day Caesars have devised a tax system that violates the letter and spirit of the Bill of Rights. By forcing Americans to bare the intimate details of their financial lives every April 15th, the U.S. government is in direct violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and the very spirit upon which this Republic was founded. As if that weren't bad enough, it now turns out that every scrap of information that defines who we are — birthdates, social security numbers, addresses, telephone numbers, income, expenses, stock and bond purchases and sales, property owned and taxes paid on it, we have hardly scratched the surface here — is available to every hacker and criminal with the ability to penetrate IRS's Maginot line of security. Not only are we forced to comply with this monstrous system, we are compelled to do so under pain of fines, imprisonment, and forfeiture of assets if we fail to do so. In effect, the federal government has put us in the position of exposing all to the hackers and thieves, and then persecuting with virtually unlimited power those who fail to do so on the grounds that they don't want their IDs stolen.

So we are damned if we do, and damned if we don't!

This dilemma is bad enough when it is at a distance removed. It becomes personal when it victimizes people close to us; I know of at least one individual who is suffering through a nightmare similar to the ones described in the above Yahoo Finance report, and I daresay many of you reading this article know other victims or, perhaps, have become one yourself. Not only are the thieves collecting refunds in their victims' names; the victims are being denied refunds they are legitimately entitled to and, in some cases, being dunned by IRS for collecting refunds under fraudulent circumstances. You can be sure the dilemma is only going to get worse. The government claims it is taking steps to correct the system and safeguard the identities of all taxpayers. I'm told by fairly reliable authorities that the safeguards are not working. The government is incompetent at best, criminal at worst. Can we honestly expect our bloated bureaucracy to devise a system that safeguards the minutiae of our financial lives now that everyone's worst nightmare is becoming a fact of everyday life?

I don't think so.

For years I've been advising people not to put themselves in a situation where they are due a refund on their taxes; it amounts to an interest-free loan given by the taxpayer to the government. Yet, people continue to so in great numbers. "It's forced savings," they say. "It's money I look forward to receiving every year to pay for something I want or need." Clearly, this attitude is absolutely senseless. If you hang onto your own money in the first place, put some of it aside, you can do anything you want with it without using Uncle Sam as your personal banker. I don't advocate that anyone do anything illegal, and I wouldn't do it myself since I have too much to lose at this stage of my life. But if enough taxpayers emailed their elected representatives, demanding that they get serious about junking our present unconstitutional tax code and replacing it with something less intrusive, perhaps the politicos will get the idea that they may be faced with a real tax revolt in the months and years ahead.

How many more ID thefts are the people of this country willing to put up with before they begin to act in their own self-defense? We've got a growing epidemic in this country, and it's unlikely to get any better until enough people start howling about it.

Jerome Tuccille [send him mail] is the author of 25 books, including It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand, It Still Begins With Ayn Rand, and most recently of Hemingway and Gellhorn. Visit his website.

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