2018-04-15 / Opinion


Tax collection has an amazing history

ED FITZGERALD ED FITZGERALD Time to pay up. Today, the 15th of April, is the traditional day to ante up and pay your fair share of taxes. In recent years we’ve found that Uncle Sam can be a patient collector of our money. Every now and then he gives us an extra day or two to pay the piper. What a guy.

This year is such a year. The deadline for 2018 is Tuesday. That’s because the 15th falls on a Sunday and Monday is Emancipation Day, which is a holiday in Washington D.C. Back in 1862 when Abe Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation it would’ve been nice if he had mentioned to the freed slaves that they were now eligible to get jobs and start working toward a new life of getting taxed to death.

Obviously if you are set to receive money from Uncle Sam, you probably filed long ago. Those of us who owe money put off the task as long as possible. If you were planning to claim a dubious deduction or two, I’m betting you didn’t dare file on Friday the 13th.

If the two extra days this year still isn’t enough time, you could file for an extension. It’s amazing how understanding Uncle Sam is. It’s almost like he knows he will eventually get our money no matter how much we delay the inevitable. It’s like Uncle Sam is saying: I’m not worried, I know where you live. Because he does. Some of you may wait to file your taxes until the stroke of 12 o’clock Tuesday night, just to make sure the government doesn’t get your money any sooner than it should. I did that when I lived downtown Detroit. The central post office on Fort Street, over by old Tiger Stadium, would stay open until midnight. People like me would come downtown and toss our returns into a large bin that was watched over by a security guard. I’m not sure what the guard was guarding. Would someone try to steal someone else’s tax return? Maybe if someone was foolish enough to put cash inside their envelope. Most of us send a personal check to the government. I tell you one thing: That is one check you don’t want to bounce. Uncle Sam will glue your photo upon his giant cash register with a stern warning for others not to accept checks from this man.

Maybe you’re not old-fashioned and you don’t want to rely on the U.S. Postal Service. If you are trying to speed things along, you might have filed over the Internet. People who “e-file” usually receive their tax refund within three weeks, or sooner if they have direct deposit with their bank. A tax return can take six to eight weeks to process if mailed.

Some people like to do their own taxes. They don’t trust someone else to do it. Some people who make questionable deductions don’t want to involve professional tax preparers in their potential crimes, and the tax preparers thank them for that consideration.

Tax collection is one of the most amazing, universal and historical parts of society. It’s a time-honored tradition and no one — no one — has ever been happy about paying taxes. Now and then you hear about a billionaire who says he should be paying more in taxes. That’s easy to say when you possess so much money that a few million here and there don’t make much of a difference.

Some people refuse to pay their taxes and those people eventually end up jail. Uncle Sam always gets his man. Singer and songwriter Willie Nelson faced a tax debt of $16.7 million and then released a collection of songs titled “The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories?” It turns out lots of people were interested in Willie’s memories. And, with a little help from his friends, Willie paid off his debt to Uncle Sam.

Some people dig such a hole that they can never repay their tax debt. That means the rest of us need to kick in extra. And, I think I speak for all us, we don’t like to do that. So if you’re a dairy farmer living in Clifford with tax shelters and offshore accounts in the Cayman Islands, c’mon, give the rest of us a break. Quit living your extravagant lifestyle and pay up! Some people.

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