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Tax laws, guns and money

With what's been going with the IRS of late, it may be time for someone to add a tax twist to the late Warren Zevon classic, Lawyers, Guns and Money.

Not that I, being a native Texan, want to perpetuate any stereotypes, but let's start with the guns even though that's second in the headline and song title list.

A couple of weeks ago, the IRS announced it was seeking bids (or as the agency calls it, a Request For Quotation) for 60 Remington shotguns for its Criminal Investigation Division.

The request goes on in detail about the weapons specifications. It also asks potential suppliers to "Submit quotes including 11% Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax (FAET) and shipping to Washington DC."

Government Bytes advises moonshiners to beware.

I suspect, however, that the IRS and its criminal investigators might have had the Browns on their minds when this order was placed.

Tax protesters Ed and Elaine Brown refused to go to prison after being convicted in 2007 of refusing to pay tax on more than $1 million Mrs. Brown had earned as a dentist. Instead, the couple holed up in their New Hampshire home.

Fortified with explosives, booby traps and  an array of weapons, they held federal law officers at bay for nine months. During the standoff, the Browns portrayed their resistance as a political protest against what they saw as an unjust federal government and invalid tax laws.

Oh yeah. The former militia movement members also threatened violence if law enforcement agents tried to arrest them.

The impasse was broken peacefully when a team of U.S. marshals were able to gain access by convincing the couple that they were sympathetic to the cause.

But when it comes to folks really adamant about not paying taxes, the IRS apparently believes that it never hurts to have a little firepower of its own on hand.

Tougher protester laws: In January, the 67-year-old Brown was sentenced to 37 years in federal prison. His wife, age 68, previously was given a 35-year jail term.

Now Obama wants to try to nip such tax protests in the bud.

In his fiscal 2011 budget, the prez wants to make "repeated willful failure" to file a tax return, which now is a misdemeanor with a maximum $25,000 fine for each occurrences, a felony.

Specifically, the Administration is calling for (on page 115 of the Treasury's Green Book):

Any person who willfully fails to file tax returns in any three years within any five consecutive year period, if the aggregated tax liability for such period is at least $50,000, would be subject to a new aggravated failure to file criminal penalty. The proposal would classify such failure as a felony and, upon conviction, impose a fine of not more than $250,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation) or imprisonment for not more than five years, or both.

If Congress agrees, the new penalties would take effect in 2011.

Debunking protest arguments: OK, we've had the tax law and enforcement component. And the guns. Now to the money.

Yes, your income is taxable. And yes, wages are part of that taxable income. The IRS covers that and more in The Meaning of Income section of its most recent edition of The Truth About Frivolous Tax Arguments.

In the 80-page document, the IRS deconstructs some of the more common contentions by tax protesters. Each argument against the U.S. tax system is briefly explained, followed by a
discussion of the law and/or court decisions supporting the tax and tax law.

And for folks who just refuse to accept the Internal Revenue Code, the IRS also explains the penalties they could face if they persist in their anti-tax actions.

Graceful goodbye: If you're a Warren Zevon fan, you probably saw his last television appearance. It was the Oct. 30, 2002, Late Show with David Letterman, where Zevon was the lone guest.

I found a bit of the show on YouTube. And Paul Beston's Life and Death on 'The Late Show' for The American Spectator is a nice recounting of a moving evening shared by two friends who knew they didn't have many such encounters left.

Zevon died of lung cancer on Sept. 7, 2003.

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Thomas Goldman

Interesting article, although nothing surprising really about governments wanting to make sure they can "legally" take money from ayone who's got it.


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