Re: SOL

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You are under no moral or legal obligation to pay more tax than you owe, so if the statute of limitations has run, then you don't owe it! But I thought that there was no statute of limitations for federal income tax. IINAL, but I seem to remember that the IRS will only go back so many years, unless they suspect fraud, and then they can go back to your very first return.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:30 PM
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Pay your taxes. All of them.

Taxes are the dues for living in $country. If you do not want to pay taxes, leave.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:30 PM
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My professional reaction is that you're ethically obliged to pay only what you're legally obliged to pay -- you don't have ethical obligations to the IRS distinct from your legal obligations. (That is, there are situations where a client would want to do something, and my reaction would be along the lines of "Aieee. They won't put you in jail for it, but it's not okay." This is not such a situation.)

But the fact that it's a professional reaction, and I'm a soulless hired gun, may mean that I'm off base.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:32 PM
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1: There was something of the sort with Geithner's taxes -- was it an amnesty rather than a statute of limitations?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:33 PM
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How much is owed?


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:34 PM
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My non-professional reaction is that of LB's: there's no ethical obligation to pay more than you legally owe.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:35 PM
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There isn't a chance in hell that I would pay the taxes.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:36 PM
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4 - This *is* the Geithner issue. I'm just wondering how many people would have done the same thing he did.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:36 PM
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8: Well, yeah, it was pretty clear that was what you were talking about. When you say "do the same thing", IIRC he initially only paid the amount he was legally obliged to, and has now paid the whole thing -- are you asking who would initially pay everything? Or are you asking who would pay only what they had to, and then back down and pay more when they came under public scrutiny?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:38 PM
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Roasted beets, toasted walnuts, and grapefruit marmalade = big win.

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Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:39 PM
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there's no ethical obligation to pay more than you legally owe.

True.

However, pretty much the only situation I can think of where it would be worth pushing this point in practice would be if it was due to their error, not yours.

I'd be a little worried anyway about why they were reviewing more than 10 year old returns.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:39 PM
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This *is* the Geithner issue. I'm just wondering how many people would have done the same thing he did.

Can't be compared. Caesar's wife and all that. Tax cheats should go to jail, but I take every deduction I can. It is my money, last time I checked.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:40 PM
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I'm with LB. I did in fact pay the wrong amount for the first three years I was freelancing, and by the time the mistake was discovered, the statute of limitations had run out for all three years. So I couldn't file amended returns and claim the thousands to which I would have been entitled otherwise. Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:40 PM
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10 also works well if you swap the marmalade with a nice Feta.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:40 PM
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There's no such thing as a nice feta. Feta is nasty.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:42 PM
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I think I'd pay. Why? They could always change the law to change the statute of limitations. Then all of a sudden I have to pay not only the taxes but also lots of penalties that increase every year.

I trust the government a little more than, say, Comcast, but have the same lack of faith that I would be able to negotiate with it even if it was being grossly unfair and illogical.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:42 PM
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Some people seem to be in a huff that he didn't pay the full amount initially and it's being presented in the media like he cheated on his taxes. But, really, I bet 80%+ of the people you'd ask on the street would do the same thing.

Now whether he knew he was supposed to pay the extra SSI taxes, that seems a tad fishy.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:42 PM
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There's no such thing as a nice feta. Feta is nasty.

Sometimes, Ben, quiet ignorance is better.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:43 PM
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I have lost money to the IRS on amended returns, but had to pay what I owed. I had tried to offset the differences, but the time had expired for me to claim the refunds. The tax obligations stay until paid, with interest. Sucks to be me.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:43 PM
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It is my money, last time I checked.

Or it's theirs. The trick is figuring out exactly which is which.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:44 PM
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They could always change the law to change the statute of limitations.

I strongly doubt that any such law would apply retroactively.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:45 PM
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Now whether he knew he was supposed to pay the extra SSI taxes, that seems a tad fishy.

It was a w-2 vs. 1099 issue, so I can understand how a layman might be "confused". Flat tax, baby.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:46 PM
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If the government can use legislation to make sure that credit card companies can suddenly decide for no reason that you have to pay them lots of money, surely the government itself can do it too.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:46 PM
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Or it's theirs

It's mine until it's theirs. Withholding should be illegal. It's not a cash flow issue, it's a free loan to the government.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:48 PM
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||
Caroline Kennedy withdraws her name from consideration for Clinton's seat in the senate. Thank the FSM.
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Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:49 PM
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Considering the way the IRS was nickel-and-diming me for my 2007 taxes, screw 'em - they actually sent me a second "correction" after I had resolved the first one. Not based on new information, mind you, just a closer look at the return. Boy, I bet that extra $320 (or whatever) really topped up the ol' Treasury, don't you?

That said, I'm actually opposed to bitching about taxes, and if it didn't represent such a scramble for cash for me, I wouldn't much mind at all. If, in this hypothetical, I could swing the back payment - if it didn't represent high-interest debt that could otherwise be paid off - I would probably do it. I dunno.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:52 PM
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I have to admit that I probably wouldn't pay the extra stuff. I just really can't imagine a situation where this occurs, thanks to the magic of withholdings. I mean, maybe if there were impressive investment gains, but that just means making a few sales in the current year to pay off those taxes. And that's a pretty academic concern for the next couple years anyway.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:57 PM
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And 10 sounds awful. But I hate walnuts, and am pretty cool on marmalades.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 1:59 PM
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God knows I know almost nothing about tax law, but it seems like you're morally and ethically required to pay it not as a matter of law but as a matter of citizenship.

You owed the taxes when they were due but mistakenly paid a lesser amount. That means that you owe taxes. The IRS didn't discover your mistake until it was too late for them to enforce the law, but that doesn't mean you still don't owe the taxes -- it just means that the government can't collect through any enforcement mechanism available to them.

The IRS can't legally force you to pay what you owe, but IMHO the fact that you owed the tax when you earned the money means that you're morally and ethically obligated to pay it. The fact that you can ignore that obligation without fear of legal sanction does not lessen the moral and ethical obligation itself.

IMHO, of course, and speaking not as a lawyer but as a citizen.


Posted by: NCProsecutor | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:01 PM
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But NCP, what if you mistakenly paid a greater amount?


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:03 PM
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30: Beats me.


Posted by: NCProsecutor | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:05 PM
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Under what circumstances, other than the cabinet-appointment microscope, is the IRS going to bother to look at or tell you about something that they can't make you pay?


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:13 PM
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To my mind a decisive factor is that a good chunk of your taxes will go to feed the war machine.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:16 PM
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I mean, maybe if there were impressive investment gains

But here we get into a fine line between mistake and fraud, and there is no SOL on the latter, right?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:17 PM
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30: then you're morally and ethically entitled to have it refunded to you, although, if the SOL has run, you've got no enforcement mechanism to collect the amount owed to you. But the situation is parallel. I'm with NCP, I think. ("Obligation" might be a little strong, but I do think paying is the better course.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:20 PM
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I would admire the person who paid from behind a stack of my own unpaid tax money.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:25 PM
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Actually, 13 changes my position - if they take the SofL so seriously, then I'll happily screw them.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:28 PM
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Here's a purely practical question: How much owed but no longer collectible back-tax does it take to be worth the potential increase in audits and/or audit depth?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:28 PM
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37: But I wouldn't consider it screwing them. My ethical obligation is to play by the rules, win or lose. If there's a problem, it's with the rules.

who paid from behind

One of the better euphemisms to appear on this site.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:36 PM
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Right, does the size and scope of the government affect the ethics of the situation? Because if this is your community farmer's market coop, you should clearly go back and pay the money you owe them.

Presumably the farmer's market has no statute of limitations, because they can handle it on a case-by-case basis. So does the statute of limitations exonerate you ethically? I personally feel it doesn't, but I would probably not pay the back taxes, because I'm edgy and a real renegade and like to live unethically.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:38 PM
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I'd pay the taxes if I thought I might have a Senate confirmation hearing in my future.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:39 PM
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You can pay my taxes anytime, baby.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:41 PM
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From behind?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:42 PM
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I would like the record to show that I refrained from making the comment in 43.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:43 PM
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30- Then you're ethically and legally obligated to cheat on future tax returns until everything is even. Then again, IANAL.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:43 PM
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45: Morally, perhaps. Ethically and legally, no, but I'd welcome legislative action on the issue.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:46 PM
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44: Only because you're slow, JMcQ.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:51 PM
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Then again, IANAL.

From behind?


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:52 PM
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48: Depending on how limber SP is, that might be the only realistic choice.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:53 PM
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Oh man, did I set myself up for that. Some sort of technical virgin joke that deflects attention away from me.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:53 PM
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46: What's the distinction you're drawing between morals and ethics?


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:55 PM
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50: AMT


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:57 PM
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I just really can't imagine a situation where this occurs, thanks to the magic of withholdings.

If you're getting paid on a 1099, though, there are no withholdings.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:57 PM
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Oh man, did I set myself up for that.

Wanna see my gross dividend?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 2:58 PM
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53: All you ever think about is getting paid, Josh. Would it kill you to just do a little withholding once in a while?


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:01 PM
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You sure got a pretty loophole, M/tch.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:04 PM
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Apo's about to blow his housing bubble all over the place.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:05 PM
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I'm with LB: once the statute has run, there's no obligation to pay. Ethics doesn't really enter into it. I don't get to refuse to pay tax that's legally owed because I think it's immoral to make me pay, but neither do I have to pay tax that a more moral tax system would hold me legally responsible for.

Also, IMO statutes of limitation aren't just rules of convenience. There's a substantive justice element to not trying to correct past wrongs after too much time has passed (how much is too much depends on the nature of the wrong).


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:05 PM
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57: No, the cramdown took care of that.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:07 PM
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56: What, this old thing? Nah, it's just a standard deduction.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:07 PM
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51: A tenuous and perhaps untenable distinction, but I guess it would come down to abiding by an ideal reckoning of debts vs. an obligation to respect a social contract. IANAP.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:07 PM
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50: AMT

M/tch is banned with extreme prejudice.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:07 PM
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There's a substantive justice element to not trying to correct past wrongs after too much time has passed

If you didn't notice, it must not have been that important. I tell my kids that all the time.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:08 PM
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I really don't know that there's a single clean answer here. As I said, I think paying is generally an ethically better option, but that's assuming also that you have the ability to pay. I certainly don't think you should starve your family in order to pay taxes you don't legally owe to the IRS.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:09 PM
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M/tch is banned with extreme prejudice.

Too late! The 10 comment SOL has run.


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:12 PM
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I really don't know that there's a single clean answer here.

How about "A is A"?


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:12 PM
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How about "A is A"?

That's never the answer to anything good.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:13 PM
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65: Serves me right for getting distracted by work.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:13 PM
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Your ethical obligation is to follow the law and the law has a statute of limitations. They wouldn't pay you back if the roles were reversed.

Your morals might make you uncomfortable not paying the extra, but that's your own problem.

Also, I don't have my reading glasses on and my contacts are at the point I should toss them, and I keep reading it as "statue of limitations." I can't help but wonder what such a statue would look like. How much would it resemble a syntactically correct but meaningless diorama?


Posted by: fedward | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:13 PM
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Former French president Jacques Chirac was rushed to hospital after being mauled by his own 'clinically depressed' pet dog. The 76-year-old statesman was savaged by his white Maltese dog - which suffers from frenzied fits and is being treated with anti-depressants. [...] The former French First Lady did not reveal where on his body Chirac was bitten.


|>


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:14 PM
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Did the IRS actually tell Geithner that he'd made a mistake on all four years' forms (which would mean that they were looking at forms past the SOL, which seems very odd), or did they just tell him about the two years for which he owed the back taxes, from which he inferred on his own that the same error must have been made on the previous two as well?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:14 PM
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Mauled by a Maltese? How humiliating!


Posted by: M/tch M/lls | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:16 PM
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The law has a statute of limitations, which to me means that the ethical obligation has one, too.

I think the question here is more along the lines of not believing that it was really an honest oversight.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:17 PM
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If you're getting paid on a 1099, though, there are no withholdings.

I'll admit, it's stuff like this that makes the idea of running my own business so incredibly unappealing. Sure, be my own boss, whatever. But companies have people whose entire job is to make sure I don't have to worry about how much of my salary + bonus goes into taxes!


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:17 PM
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72: Tripp looks younger than I'd imagined.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:17 PM
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70: Serves him right for naming the little fucker "Georges."


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:20 PM
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The former French First Lady did not reveal where on his body Chirac was bitten.

Thanks, Apo. A lot of us older guys like being fellated by Maltese. Now everyone knows.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:20 PM
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To my mind a decisive factor is that a good chunk of your taxes will go to feed the war machine.

Isn't this analogous to people who want "conscience clauses?" We live in a society, we have rules for deciding how to allocate the money that we tax for public projects. At the moment that money is being allocated in ways that I find distasteful, but don't I have an obligation to respect the decision making process?

I don't object to someone who wants to make an active protest out of not paying their taxes, but I wouldn't respect someone who cheated on their taxes because they didn't like what GWB was doing with the money.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:22 PM
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I think the question here is more along the lines of not believing that it was really an honest oversight.

You can't tell for sure, but that I find absolutely believable. Normally, if you get paid on a W-2, withholding's been taken out; if you get paid on a 1099, nothing's withheld and the FICA taxes are your problem. The deal, as I understand it, is that for Geithner's employer (I'm drawing a blank -- the World Bank?), they got a W-2 with withholding of FICA on some but not all of the amount for which it had to be paid. While employees were notified of this fact, forgetting it seems like a perfectly reasonable fuckup.

But I have very little sympathy for "How could this sophisticated person have innocently made this boneheaded bureaucratic error? It's implausible!" arguments. I look about as sophisticated as anyone on paper (New York lawyer, with experience working on bigtime financial cases), but I'm wildly confused by my own finances. I don't think I screw things up importantly much, largely because they're objectively pretty simple, but nothing about my level of sophistication makes me less likely to make this class of mistake.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:24 PM
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75 - cuter, too.

I don't think I'd pay - as has been mentioned, they wouldn't pay me back. But if I could afford it, and it was my mistake, then I might do it to maintain the moral high ground.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:24 PM
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Moral high ground? A myth. It's a jungle out there.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:26 PM
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Your ethical obligation is to follow the law and the law has a statute of limitations.

But staying under the radar until the statute of limitations has run doesn't mean you've followed the law, it means you can't be prosecuted or sued for not following it. I think that's a genuine difference. If I defraud you out of money, do I have an ethical obligation to repay you for 5 years (or whatever the applicable SOL for civil fraud is) that evaporates the following day? Seems to me the only thing that's changed is your legal recourse, not my moral status.


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:27 PM
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82: of course, for that very reason there's not SOL when fraud is involved.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:28 PM
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82: But that's not what we're talking about. What we're talking about is the ethics of an honest mistake caught after the SOL has run.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:29 PM
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for that very reason there's not SOL when fraud is involved.

There's not? I thought everything but murder had one.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:29 PM
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but I'm wildly confused by my own finances.

That, and taxes are far more complicated than they should reasonably be, particularly if your situation is anything but the most simple and common cases. I'm all for a pretty deep reform and flattening.

It's a pretty serious burden in time and/or money too, if they're at all complicated. Forget paying some big chain $50 to bung it through a computer.

I've had to deal with cross border taxes a few times, which is even worse. Several thousands of dollars later in accountants fees for people with knowledge of tax law in multiple countries as well as the tax treaties which is the (often somewhat ambiguous) final word on some aspects, and the best you can say is you've done your best to pay the right amounts, and hired a real professional to check it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:30 PM
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There's not? I thought everything but murder had one.

IIRC, the IRS reserves the right to investigate for fraud at any length. Which doesn't mean you can be prosecuted for it, but I suppose you may owe back taxes. Not sure how that would work.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:31 PM
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Depending on the circumstances, it's not that there's no SOL when there's fraud, but that fraud can prevent the SOL from running. (This is civil, not criminal.) If someone wronged you, and their fraud kept you from discovering the wrong until after the SOL would normally have run, depending on the state you will probably be able to restart the clock from when you knew or should have known about the wrong.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:32 PM
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85: my statement was technically correct. The SOL doesn't begin to run until the fraud is uncovered. But roughly the same effect.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:33 PM
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WASN'T technically correct, I mean


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:34 PM
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The SOL doesn't begin to run until the fraud is uncovered.

Ah, interesting. So that's how they do it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:34 PM
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Oh, and also pwned.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:35 PM
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74 - ditto. The complexity of corporate law and the blardeblar associated with tax compliance have a real negative impact. This is one reason I support a flat tax - it makes compliance far simpler and removes a whole layer of essentially parasitic bureaucracy. Simplifying regulation all around should be a core liberal value, IMO. The burden of compliance should be made as small as it can be in order to make it easier for people to work for themselves.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:36 PM
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92: Hell, even the incorrect statement was pwned. It's not your day, Brock.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:37 PM
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is one reason I support a flat tax - it makes compliance far simpler and removes a whole layer of essentially parasitic bureaucracy.

Simple has nothing to do with flat -- a progressive income tax with no deductions would be just as easy as a one-rate income tax. You'd just have to look up your income on a table: 30 seconds.

If there are deductions affecting what's defined as income, on the other hand, a flat tax can be just as complicated as the progressive tax we have now.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:39 PM
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What the fuck does a flat tax have to do with anything? Figuring out the tax rate is the easiest part. It's the schedules and deductions and credits that are a bitch. Simplifying regulation is a good goal, but a flat tax doesn't really help, and is directly opposed to other core liberal values. It's a terrible policy that you should be ashamed to support.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:39 PM
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88: No, for a fraudulent tax return, the statute really just doesn't run.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:39 PM
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93: By flat tax you mean treating all types of income the same? Not having a non-progressive tax? I hope.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:39 PM
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97: but potchkeh was talking about defrauding another individual, not filing a false tax return.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:42 PM
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It's the schedules and deductions and credits that are a bitch.

Exactly. Flat tax is a distraction (as well as a bad idea). But 98 is right, this may be a jargon issue.

schedules & deductions & credits tend to get worse over time, and are an annoying way to provided targeted incentives that pile up and interact. Every so often the whole damn thing should be simplifies and revamped.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:44 PM
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82: There's no statute of limitations for fraud, IIRC. Merely filing a tax return with incorrect information isn't sufficient for fraud.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:44 PM
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83, 97.: the SOL for tax fraud is one thing, but civil fraud typically has just an ordinary SOL (varies from state to state of course), and I still think that, if I defraud you of money, I don't stop owing it to you the day after it's run. Maybe there's a distinction in my ethical obligation if that obligation is incurred by mistake as opposed to intentionally, but I don't see what that distinction would be.


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:46 PM
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I know that I'm the type of person who, when I bought my house, would have opted to incorporate the property taxes into my mortgage payment, rather than have to remember to budget and pay them. But still, every year I worry because I don't actually quite remember, and so I'm kind of trusting my internal consistency as a person. It's like Memento.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:48 PM
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By the way 86.last was a public service announcement. If you must hop between countries, make every effort to have your new-hire date align with the tax year. You'll thank me.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:49 PM
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"Fraud" has a technical meaning, doesn't it? More than just "accidentally forgot to pay", even if we're talking transactions between individuals.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:51 PM
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Is 10 a sort of salad? Is Ben posting the recipe to the wiki?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:52 PM
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104: It's a pain. More fun: two countries, multiple states.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:52 PM
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98: All income treated the same, fixed deduction of all income below poverty level, single rate on all income above. In practice that's progressive, since only people pulling in shitloads of money actually pay the full rate.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:53 PM
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More than just "accidentally forgot to pay"

But you've got to show good faith attempt, right?

"I don't understand tax forms so I filled out the simple one with my W-2 and ignored everything else (what is a `capital gain', anyway?)"

Isn't actually a defense, I suspect.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:53 PM
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Similar question: after filing for bankruptcy, is one morally obligated to repay a debt to a private individual? Sometimes, always, never?


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:55 PM
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No, but "I didn't understand the tax forms so I turned over everything I had to an accountant who left off a form" or "I forgot one of the several forms I had" isn't the sort of thing that is going to get you a fraud conviction. Geithner wasn't convicted of fraud and he owed a significant amount.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:57 PM
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Thinking about it further, even if I just accidentally forget to pay you money I owe--no fraud involved--a SOL (on breach of contract, say) would eventually prevent you from recovering it through legal process. Again, I don't think I would cease to owe you just because you didn't get around to suing me in time. So if there's a distinction here, it must be between owing the government and owing an individual.


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:58 PM
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103: John G failed to pay your property taxes.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:58 PM
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It's a pain. More fun: two countries, multiple states.

Or three countries. It rapidly gets to the point where nobody can actually tell you what is correct, tax wise, just send it off and hope they don't complain. It's not clear to me the problem is even well defined always.

What really sucks is when your residency changes automagically trigger unforseen taxable interactions, too.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 3:58 PM
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I don't think I would cease to owe you just because you didn't get around to suing me in time.

Latches- I think, but IANAL. You can't sit on your rights forever.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 4:01 PM
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111: oh, agreed. Being able to make some sort of argument that you reasonably attempted to do the right thing can sort it out. I just meant that the SOL doesn't magically make these things go away, particularly if you can't demonstrate good faith.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 4:01 PM
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So if there's a distinction here, it must be between owing the government and owing an individual.

I'd put a business/personal distinction in there too, I think. If I borrow $100 from Citibank, the possibility that the debt may become legally unenforceable and never get paid is part of the risk my interest payments are compensating Citibank for taking. If I borrow $100 from my mom, she's never going to sue me no matter what, but I'm morally obligated to pay her back.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 4:02 PM
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Isn't actually a defense, I suspect.

This is one of those 'whose burden is it' questions. "I didn't mean to" isn't generally a defense, it's a claim that the state (in a criminal case) or the plaintiff (in a civil action) hasn't shown an element of the crime or tort -- the requisite state of mind. Now, if you do something in a way where the circumstances provide sufficient evidence that you must have meant to, that's enough to establish state of mind. But still, the defendant doesn't have to prove lack of intent; the prosecution or the plaintiff generally has to prove intent (if intent is an element).


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 4:02 PM
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So if you work for one employer near a state border and move between states (or DC, I guess) that year, do you pay taxes in each state?


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 4:03 PM
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119: Depends where you get paid, typically.


This is one of those 'whose burden is it' questions.

Right, and your 118 matches up with my intuition, I think.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 4:05 PM
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112: I think whether I felt ethically obligated would depend on the circumstance, and I don't think it's governmental vs. individual, but depends on the amount and the effects of the mistake. (If ten years from now I discover that I underpaid rent by $50, I'm not going to feel any obligation to right the wrong with interest.)

114: Oh, yeah, the beauty of last year was that someone didn't qualify as a state resident, which jumped *my* taxes.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 4:05 PM
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To add my 2 cents (after tax) : you have a moral obligation to pay (just as the government has a moral obligation to pay back any overpayment), but I can't say that I definitely would. That said, as a PAYE worker I'm not used to the idea of actually sending a cheque to the government (or getting one back). Maybe if I were, I'd be more likely to pay what I "owed".


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 4:09 PM
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Oh, yeah, the beauty of last year was that someone didn't qualify as a state resident, which jumped *my* taxes.

It can be worse. If it makes you feel better, one year I ended up paying taxes in the maximally pessimal way for two countries and three states/provinces, as well as having to pay capital gains tax on retirement funds that I hadn't wanted to sell in the first place--- a forced sale (in a bad market) triggered by a residency requirement.

That was fun. Cross border moves can be way more expensive than you expect.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 4:10 PM
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Made you proud, didn't it, soup.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 4:13 PM
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I don' t know that "proud" was quite the word for it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 4:15 PM
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In the government's attempt to ensnare George Soro's wealth in its trap, Soup gets caught in the taxman's net. Can't be helped, old boy.

Charlie Rangel's accountant could have helped, but he was on vacation.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 4:20 PM
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I keep reading the title of this post as "Shit Out of Luck".


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 4:38 PM
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Potch, do you believe in the Statute of Frauds? Is it immoral to invoke it as a defense?


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 4:39 PM
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127: I didn't realize until just now that's not what it meant.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 4:41 PM
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129: Me too!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 4:45 PM
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127, 129: Same general idea.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 4:46 PM
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115 -- Hey, don't engage in unauthorized practice! I don't know how it is out where you are, what with the Code heritage infecting the law and all (and the "death of contract" and all that), but back here in common law land, laches is a defense in equity, and so inapplicable to a claim for money damages for breach of contract.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 4:46 PM
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129: Me too.

Sorry government, you're SOL.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 4:57 PM
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Stand or Lie


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 5:00 PM
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Potch, do you believe in the Statute of Frauds? Is it immoral to invoke it as a defense?

I believe in a SoF in the same way I believe in a SoL: they're both useful in the administration of justice (though whether the calibration is optimal is another question), but they don't really speak to whether or not a wrong occurred.

Conceivably the SoF does a bit, to the extent that it determines whether a valid contract was ever formed. If not, your moral standing wouldn't depend on what day it was (like it would with the SoL, for those who think the moral obligation is coterminous), you simply wouldn't have incurred the obligation in the first place. But someone who uses a SoF defense as a windfall to escape what he'd otherwise considered a legitimate obligation would not, I think, be acting morally.


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 5:10 PM
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SOF doesn't affect formation, but enforceability. This is why admitting the existence of the contract cures an SOF problem.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 5:15 PM
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#2: Pay your taxes. All of them.

Taxes are the dues for living in $country. If you do not want to pay taxes, leave.

OK, I left, but the IRS still wants me to pay taxes! Can you kindly explain the situation to them and straighten this whole thing out for me and the rest of the American expat community around the world? Thanks.


Posted by: Gaijin Biker | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 5:15 PM
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laches

Thers was a young belle of old Natchez,
Whose clothes were in tatters and patchez.
When comment arose,
On the state of her clothes,
She replied, "Where Ah itchez, Ah scratchez."


Posted by: Ogden Nash | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 5:24 PM
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Strike 136(b). I see that admission kills an SOF defense in some states, and not in others. Strange.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 5:25 PM
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One of the many reasons federalism sucks -- there's just no reason to have state law differ on that kind of point.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 5:29 PM
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One can read all about it in Robert S. Stevens, Ethics and the Statute of Frauds, 37 Cornell L.Q. 355 (1952).


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 5:32 PM
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140 -- left out the first sentences -- Changed over time too: the SOF was interpreted one way from 1677-about 1790, then the other from then to the beginning of the 20th century. We're mostly back to the original view -- unless you're in a state that holds to the middle view.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 5:34 PM
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140 -- I don't see any reason for people to disagree with me about anything, and yet, surprisingly, many people do.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 5:36 PM
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Oh, sure. But that kind of difference in the law -- it's not like there's any policy behind it, it just kind of evolved divergently. No one's doing business in Kansas rather than Nebraska because of their law on the SOF.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 5:42 PM
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Of course, any case where a defendant with an otherwise good SOF defense admits to the existence of an oral contract will promptly be followed by another lawsuit, namely a malpractice suit by the defendant against its lawyers.

I think the issue comes up sometimes in discovery -- i.e., is the plaintiff entitled to take discovery as to whether a defendant's denial of the oral contract is truthful in order to defeat a motion to dismiss.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 5:46 PM
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136: ok, wasn't sure about the doctrine, hence my "conceivably" and "to the extent that". But I think the rest of my comment stands: the SoF and SoL aren't about whether an obligation has been incurred (or a wrong committed, etc.), they're about marking out some circumstances under which a court isn't going to get involved in even asking the question.


Posted by: potchkeh | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 5:46 PM
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2 got it completely right. I don't know why we even needed to have the rest of the thread.

You're not paying taxes to the IRS, guys, you're paying them to your fellow citizens.*

*Unless and until I become extreme enough to be a war-tax resister, I regard the fact that a high percentage of federal taxes go to distasteful purposes to be cause for activism but not lies, fraud, cheating, or glibertarian-like arguments a la "You can't make me!"


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 5:46 PM
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Can you kindly explain the situation to them and straighten this whole thing out for me and the rest of the American expat community around the world?

Sure. Just mail back that little blue booklet you get to carry around.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 5:48 PM
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That's for taking exams!


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 5:49 PM
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147: Then my fellow citizens owe me several thousand dollars. Pay up, you fuckers.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 5:50 PM
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You're not paying taxes to the IRS, guys, you're paying them to your fellow citizens.

No, I'm paying them to my government. Important and valuable, but not the same thing.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 5:51 PM
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Because halford is making me do it, a quote from a 1988 Posner opinion:

There is remarkably little authority on the precise question raised by this appeal--whether a sworn denial ends the case or the plaintiff may press on, and insist on discovery. In fact we have found no authority at the appellate level, state or federal. Many cases hold, it is true, that the defendant in a suit on an oral contract apparently made unenforceable by the statute of frauds cannot block discovery aimed at extracting an admission that the contract was made, simply by moving to dismiss the suit on the basis of the statute of frauds or by denying in the answer to the complaint that a contract had been made. See, e.g., M & W Farm Service v. Callison, 285 N.W.2d 271, 275-76 (Iowa 1979). There is also contrary authority, illustrated by Boylan v. G.L. Morrow Co., 63 N.Y.2d 616, 618, 479 N.Y.S.2d 499, 500, 468 N.E.2d 681, 682 (1984). The clash of views is well discussed in Triangle Marketing, Inc. v. Action Industries, Inc., 630 F.Supp. 1578, 1581-83 (N.D.Ill.1986), which, in default of any guidance from Illinois courts, adopted the Boylan position. We need not take sides on the conflict. When there is a bare motion to dismiss, or an answer, with no evidentiary materials, the possibility remains a live one that, if asked under oath whether a contract had been made, the defendant would admit it had been. The only way to test the proposition is for the plaintiff to take the defendant's deposition, or, if there is no discovery, to call the defendant as an adverse witness at trial. But where as in this case the defendant swears in an affidavit that there was no contract, we see no point in keeping the lawsuit alive. Of course the defendant may blurt out an admission in a deposition, but this is hardly likely, especially since by doing so he may be admitting to having perjured himself in his affidavit. Stranger things have happened, but remote possibilities do not warrant subjecting the parties and the judiciary to proceedings almost certain to be futile.

A plaintiff cannot withstand summary judgment by arguing that although in pretrial discovery he has gathered no evidence of the defendant's liability, his luck may improve at trial. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Barker v. Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, 797 F.2d 490, 496 (7th Cir.1986); Spellman v. Commissioner, 845 F.2d 148, 151 (7th Cir.1988). The statement in a leading commercial law text that a defense based on the statute of fraud must always be determined at trial because the defendant might in cross-examination admit the making of the contract, see White & Summers, Handbook of the Law Under the Uniform Commercial Code 67 (1980), reflects a misunderstanding of the role of summary judgment; for the statement implies, contrary to modern practice, that a party unable to generate a genuine issue of fact at the summary judgment stage, because he has no evidence with which to contest an affidavit of his adversary, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e), may nevertheless obtain a trial of the issue. He may not. By the same token, a plaintiff in a suit on a contract within the statute of frauds should not be allowed to resist a motion to dismiss, backed by an affidavit that the defendant denies the contract was made, by arguing that his luck may improve in discovery. Just as summary judgment proceedings differ from trials, so the conditions of a deposition differ from the conditions in which an affidavit is prepared; affidavits in litigation are prepared by lawyers, and merely signed by affiants. Yet to allow an affiant to be deposed by opposing counsel would be to invite the unedifying form of discovery in which the examining lawyer tries to put words in the witness's mouth and construe them as admissions.

There's a dissent, but you'll have to find it yourselves.


Posted by: CharleyCarp | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 5:55 PM
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You're not paying taxes to the IRS, guys, you're paying them to your fellow citizens.*

And non citizens. And ferners. And everybody else who directly or indirectly benefits from the Feds. But the question is not whether to pay taxes, it is how much to pay as determined by some pretty arbitrary rules which are confusing and even contradictory.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 5:56 PM
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151: Fair enough. Even so, it's not this external entity that everybody in the thread seems to be accepting as read. The government is US too.

/end civics rant

That's for taking exams!

Funnily enough, I just had cause to use one for notetaking purposes, which caused the gentleman in question to ask "Is that a blue book?" in tones one might use to inquire about a rare elephant.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 5:59 PM
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Funny how the SoL for fraud (usual victims: rich white men) runs from when it is uncovered, but the doing the same for discrimination (usual victims: women, minorities) would be an impossible burden on employers. Way to go, Supreme Court.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 6:05 PM
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Not so much "ha ha" funny, though


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 6:08 PM
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Also, this - "Just mail back that little blue booklet you get to carry around" - doesn't work. The US taxes people for up to ten years after renunciation of citizenship in some cases, and since 2008 also imposes an exit tax.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 6:09 PM
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155: I admit I noticed that as well.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 6:09 PM
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Way to go, Supreme Court

If the law supposes that...the law is a ass-a idiot.


Posted by: Mr. Bumble | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 6:14 PM
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155- That's about to change, the Senate passed the Ledbetter act today.


Posted by: SP | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 6:29 PM
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157: I take it that Witt was just doing her remedial Civics course, with the mentoring/parenting cap on.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 6:29 PM
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160: I hadn't seen that. Great news.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 6:30 PM
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160: Oh, yay!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 6:31 PM
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Just looked up the vote: all the Dems except Kennedy who would have voted yes, plus Collins, Snowe, Specter. Nice to see something not go down to the filibuster.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 6:33 PM
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152 -- That Posner case really does show that he was never a trial lawyer. A witness contradicts an affidavit written by his lawyer under tough cross in a deposition? My stars, how could such a thing be conceivable?


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 6:38 PM
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That's really great news about the Ledbetter Act. Big thanks due to the unions and to the plaintiff herself.


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 6:39 PM
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Nice to see something not go down to the filibuster.

And nice to see the rest of the Republicans unite around a commitment to remaining contemptible shitheads despite all that's happened.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 6:42 PM
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Jesus, we may not throw shoes at them, but we can turn our backs, eh? Unless our girlfriends are best friends with their girlfriends.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 6:49 PM
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I swear I'll never eat a Republican senator's finger sandwiches.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 6:52 PM
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||

"MSNBC is reporting that Congresswoman Gillibrand has been called to an 11 a.m. meeting on Friday morning with Gov. Paterson, which would seem to fuel further speculation that she will be the choice to fill Senator Clinton's seat."

|>

Who?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 7:18 PM
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Seriously, though, I'm put in mind of the Specials line "if you have a racist friend, now is the time for your friendship to end."

It's widely quoted, I imagine -- and I actually encountered it in college (1984?) via The Special AKA -- but it hit me hard. Somehow nobody had ever validated that possibility before.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 7:18 PM
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Would you throw a finger sandwich at a Republican senator? Would you set him on fire if he pissed on you?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 7:20 PM
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170: New York traded in their senator for a younger, blonder version.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 7:21 PM
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173: Oo, she has The Hair.

Ever met, in person, one of these politician/newscaster types of people? Creepy, calls for a double-take. Hairsprayed up the wazoo, plucked and woven arrayed. It's weird, I tell you what.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 7:30 PM
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Taxes and politics? Bah.

The real ethical dilemma is "now that The Dark Knight has been shut out of both best picture and best director, am I still required to treat members of The Academy as human beings?"

I'm going with, "no".


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 7:33 PM
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Each time I see this thread, SOL does not make me think of Statute of Limitations.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 7:43 PM
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I think this discussion calls for a repost of my tax sonnet from a couple years ago on Crooked Timber. This is also to honor the fact I am going to have a lot more time for poesy in the near future, as I have given my notice (for good this time!) and am leaving the financial industry next week! Hooray!

On Taxes
by minneapolitan

When April bares its blossoms to the world,
Those tulips brief but lusty in display,
Atop the bureau or the desk still furled,
Tax forms, schedules, and all receipts shall stay.

But 'pon the Ides or maybe just before,
Worker, owner, pensioner--they must pay.
Unhearing voicemail many shall implore,
Vexation makes us equals all this day.

Curse not, and come November have your say,
On how these tarrifs should be wisely spent,
On police, roads, the schools or any way,
Inside the proper scope of government.

For taxes, though they do take out a bite,
Succor the weak and show the world our might!


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 7:44 PM
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173: Oo, she has The Hair.

That's a pretty low-key version of Hair, as Hair goes.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 7:47 PM
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179

Back taxes
SoL kicks in
Sound of money—poof


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 7:49 PM
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177 is really awesome (although I was expecting the concluding line to be "fuck the police").


Posted by: Robert Halford | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 8:02 PM
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it's not this external entity that everybody in the thread seems to be accepting as read

For the record, I said something similar in 78.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 8:02 PM
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179: Just think though ... if it hadn't gone poof then, it probably would have gone poof last fall.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 8:05 PM
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176: oh! In fact, that possible interpretation hadn't even occured to me.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 8:05 PM
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my Indian friend does not pay taxes coz India and many other countries have the tax treaty with the US, our country does not have, so i pay taxes as regular Americans do, 25% around
so when i told him that i prepare taxes myself online, he said i should hire an accountant to get the highest tax return possible, 'why would you want to pay more money for their war?'
after getting the tax return i pay around 3K, so that's probably a fair amount for the duration of my stay
i wouldn't pay backtaxes if i'm not legally liable anymore, but would try to get back something if i paid mistakenly more, coz flexible that way
or one's own shirt is closer to the body as a Russian proverb goes


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 8:07 PM
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*Unless and until I become extreme enough to be a war-tax resister

I had a great-uncle who was one of those. He also composted his own poop and did calisthenics in the aisles of airplanes. Of course, he also rode busses all over the country solo until he was 96 or so. Plus, once he built a stone two-car garage by hand (my grandfather helped).


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 8:11 PM
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179 was meant to extend the tax poetry theme. The reference can be found on Standpipe's (other) blog.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 8:16 PM
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The US taxes people for up to ten years after renunciation of citizenship in some cases, and since 2008 also imposes an exit tax.

Forgive me for my ignorance about this, but I had a vague notion this was special-case legislation passed because of a tiny handful of high-profile very, very rich folks. Does it affect any real number of people? Meaning >3/year? I'm willing to assume this is a clumsy attempt at fairness in the arms race of taxation, unless somebody tells me this affects a whole lot more folks than I'm assuming it does.

181: Sorry, Nick, I don't know how I missed your very eloquent 78. I could have just said "seconded." Consider it said.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 8:17 PM
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The humanure stands out in that list of transit oddities. Methane-powered car, perhaps?

147: Perhaps I would split the difference by sending the morally-but-not-legally-owed back tax amount to an organization working to make gov't expenditures more just.

My tax bitterness comes from my first full-time job, in which my employer did totally illegal things, starting with redefining us as salaried or hourly month to month to minimize his payroll, and going on to not writing up a W-2 and then making up a wrong one; I paid some back tax and fee for errors on that one.


Posted by: clew | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 8:31 PM
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Each time I see this thread, SOL does not make me think of Statute of Limitations.

Virginia's Standards of Learning exams, right?


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 8:38 PM
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Sol, what you Earth people call "the sun".


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 8:39 PM
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188.3: Well, right, that's exactly it: there is rarely such a thing as what one (ethically) owes that's distinct from what one legally owes.

Grr, the suggestion on the part of Witt and a few others that flexibility in tax-paying is some sort of shirking of civic responsibility is annoying when it's presented in global, unnuanced terms.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 8:41 PM
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187.2 -- Thank you, and that's not necessasary. 78 was in the middle of a fast moving series of comments and easy to miss.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 8:41 PM
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Sol, bra fitting experts in Denver.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 8:41 PM
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"Does it affect any real number of people? Meaning >3/year?"

Well, I doubt all that many people renounce their citizenship, so probably not. And yes, it mainly affects rich people. But I've read news stories where ordinary people with perfectly good reasons for renouncing citizenship (eg naturalised Norwegian wife returned to Norway after her husband died, and Norway doesn't like dual citizenship) have been barred from reentering the country and been pursued by the IRS.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 8:45 PM
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Plus, once he built a stone two-car garage by hand (my grandfather helped).

You're related to Robinson Jeffers, eh?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 8:46 PM
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in re 177, some may have forgotten that Minnie made his d├ębut with sonnetizing.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 8:50 PM
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193: More of a very high-end lingerie store. They still send us adverts, even though we're a thousand miles away.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 9:02 PM
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Sol, an eminent logician.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 9:04 PM
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Sol, a needle pulling thread.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 9:07 PM
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200

Sol of wit, brevity.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 9:18 PM
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there was a wikipedia page of sols
sonet


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 9:23 PM
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Sol of Portsmouth, abused footballer.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 9:33 PM
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What we need here's a sol earner.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 9:34 PM
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I wouldn't pay it, but I would feel bad.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 9:37 PM
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Sol Hepatica, Unplugged.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 9:38 PM
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I don't feel bad, and I don't feel bad about not feeling bad. You know, sometimes an adversarial attitude towards government is justified.


Posted by: paranoid android | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 9:40 PM
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This ain't Moravia, Sifu.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 9:44 PM
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Nor Peru, I suppose.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 9:50 PM
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Nor fifteenth-century France.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 9:52 PM
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A complete list of all the things this ain't is being prepared and should be ready before the week is out.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 9:52 PM
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This is not included in the present classification nor is it drawn with a very fine camelhair brush,


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 01-22-09 10:08 PM
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110: Similar question: after filing for bankruptcy, is one morally obligated to repay a debt to a private individual? Sometimes, always, never?

I'll go with "sometimes." There's at least one case where my answer would be "hell, yes," though the individual involved would certainly not worry about it. This one happened to a friend of a friend, enough years ago that student loans were dischargeable in bankruptcy. Wife works to earn the family income while hubby is going to law school. Because they were married, she had to cosign on his student loans. Shortly after graduation, he files for divorce and for bankruptcy more or less simultaneously. She spends the next ten years scrimping to pay off his student loans while he pays nothing, though he is earning easily 3x what she does. Yeah, I think he had a moral obligation to pay her back for that, with interest, but if he were the type to recognize that obligation, he wouldn't have filed for bankruptcy in the first place.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 3:09 AM
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180: Those aren't necessarily my actual views on taxes. The poem was written in response to a challenge to aestheticize the ideology of taxation (in order to annoy so-called "libertarians", which I am always interested in doing.)

Maybe after I quit I will post my sonnet about my soon-to-be-former job. It's also sort-of mock heroic, but more sincere than the tax one.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 5:58 AM
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SOL to me is, in order of mental availability
Scrape-Of Layer
Standard Of Living
Shit Outta Luck


Also, I initially read 166 as thanking unicorns, not unions.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 7:33 AM
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Well FUCK NO, but then I'm not running for public office either.

93: Do you want to remove the income cap on FICA then?

How do you feel about making the invisible part of FICA and Medicare for wage-earners visible? What I mean is, if you have an ordinary job, they deduct 6.2% of the gross income, up to the cutoff ($102,000 in 2008) for FICA and 1.45% of the gross income, no cutoff, for Medicare. But your employer also pays 6.2% + 1.45%. So if you have a gross annual income of $100,000 per year (a high number, but it makes the arithmetic super easy) as shown on your W-2, from your employer's point of view your annual wage is actually $107,650 (plus any additional benefits like health insurance, company car, etc.). Now I'd call this number your real wage, it's what you're competing with; e.g., if your boss could outsource your job or replace you with an industrial robot for $105,000 per year, then it would be in his short-term interest to fire you.

Practically nobody on the street knows how this works. Ask around. (For that matter, most workers don't ever look at their paycheck stubs at all, except for the net wages and the number of vacation and sick hours they've got.) Now if I were the tax form Tsar, I'd make workers's W-2 forms show the entire 107.65% (with an adjustment to the income tax rates so workers's total income taxes wouldn't go up).


Posted by: W. Kiernan | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 9:05 AM
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215.2: I want to remove all the little specialized taxes on income. Increase the single rate to compensate. Probably it would be politically necessary to say the single rate breaks down as 5% for this and 2.1% for that or some such.

My plan has a snowball's chance in hell of passing, of course.

The problem is that complexity raises barriers to people doing things on their own initiative to improve their lives. The me the core element of liberalism is a belief that the proper role of government includes making people's lives better. The single most effective way to do that is to empower them to take matters into their own hands. That means on the one hand social insurance to mitigate the downside of taking chances, and on the other hand giving them tools (such as education) to improve their chances of success. Complicated laws, regulations, and the like raise obstacles that ought to be minimized if at all possible.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 9:42 AM
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togolosh, that sounds great, but in reality virtually all the complexity in the tax code comes from giving people *tax breaks* of one sort or another. Now this obviously makes things more complicated and creates some deadweight loss etc but the root cause of the complex set of rules is that people wanted some "good" activities to be taxed at a lesser effective rate.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 9:56 AM
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217 - Ayup. I don't think the tax code is a good place for social engineering. Actually, having the government pick which activities are good is pretty sketchy in my book, thanks to the fact that it opens the door for all manner of corruption.


Posted by: togolosh | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 11:04 AM
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Agreed, just pointing out that you think the government should just "give [people] tools (such as education)" -- this is partly done through the tax system (some educational expenses are tax-deductible) and ends up contributing to a complex tax code. I don't think anyone other than tax lawyers gets a good feeling looking at all the tax rules, but I'm also somewhat mistrustful of simple solutions that aren't that connected to reality. The government is going to pick which activities are good no matter what; even your comment 216 picks out education and medical/unemployment insurance as things that the government should subsidize.

But yeah, there are definitely some downsides to the tax code (deadweight loss, barriers to entry).


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 11:18 AM
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in reality virtually all the complexity in the tax code comes from giving people *tax breaks* of one sort or another

This is partly true at best. It's true for individual taxpayers whose income is all from salaries and investments, but measuring business income is a complicated endeavor even if you're trying to be totally straight about it. Which, obviously, we're not, but it's still not the case that we could make the whole Internal Revenue Code go "poof" if we just had the political will.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 3:22 PM
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Depending on the circumstances, it's not that there's no SOL when there's fraud, but that fraud can prevent the SOL from running. (This is civil, not criminal.) If someone wronged you, and their fraud kept you from discovering the wrong until after the SOL would normally have run, depending on the state you will probably be able to restart the clock from when you knew or should have known about the wrong.

Unlike, say, pay discrimination. Bastard SOTUS.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 4:24 PM
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measuring business income is a complicated endeavor even if you're trying to be totally straight about it

Measuring the income is easier than measuring the profits, upon which the taxes are to be paid. I don't think anyone would endorse business taxes based on gross income.


Posted by: Tassled Loafered Leech | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 4:42 PM
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Good grief. In a discussion of the federal income tax, which is imposed on net income (aka profits), one might think it appropriate to use the terminology that the Internal Revenue Code does. Business taxes based on gross income do exist, e.g. the Washington B & O tax and the Hawaii general excise tax, but that's not important right now.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 01-23-09 4:54 PM
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X.


Posted by: X | Link to this comment | 01-24-09 6:20 PM
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Your obligation is nil if your legal exposure is nil. The government is not run or organized such that individual, middle-income people should feel like they are somehow getting a free ride. If huge banks get billions of free dollars and nobody in Washington seriously questions the wisdom of this, then certainly you have no moral obligation to help.


Posted by: NBarnes | Link to this comment | 01-25-09 11:45 AM
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