(Wes Benedict) – The federal government’s recent demand for tax protester Wesley Snipes to report to prison brings attention to how horrible the federal income tax system is.
The three-year federal prison sentence for Snipes’s failure to file tax returns is absurd. Snipes is not a threat to anyone, and the judge who sentenced him clearly just wanted to scare others who might think about resisting federal taxes.
Maybe it’s worth reminding people that Wesley Snipes was acquitted of tax fraud and conspiracy charges in 2008. He was only found guilty on misdemeanor charges of ‘willful failure to file an income tax return.’
Why is a failure to file a tax return a criminal non-act? Should people ever be sent to prison for not doing something? If the IRS wants to come after Snipes and take his money, they have power to do that. Who does it help to send the man to prison?
The tax code is incredibly vague and open to interpretation. In fact, the ‘law’ is largely written by IRS bureaucrats. If they decide the law says one thing, you’re OK; if they decide it’s something else, then you’re headed for prison.
The federal tax code also allows for ‘selective enforcement,’ to put it mildly. Why is it that Wesley Snipes gets a prison sentence, but known tax cheat Tim Geithner gets promoted to Secretary of the Treasury? Maybe Tim should be Wesley’s cellmate. Throw tax cheat politician Charlie Rangel in the slammer too for good measure.
Why do people like Wesley Snipes and Tim Geithner work so hard to avoid paying taxes? Because THE TAX IS TOO DAMN HIGH! When the government wants to grab 35 or 40 percent of what a person earns, you can expect that person to spend a whole lot of time, effort, and money to get around it. Accountants and tax lawyers use a giant bag of tricks to help their clients pay less tax. When the IRS decides that they’re just inside the legal bounds, then everything’s great. But when the IRS decides they’re just outside the legal bounds, now the person’s supposedly a horrible criminal who deserves our hatred. Was Snipes a fraudster, or was he just trying to do what he thought the law allowed? It all depends on who you ask.
Should we simplify the tax code? Obviously. But better yet, I want to get rid of the federal income tax and replace it with nothing. A federal government limited to its proper functions would cost so little compared to today’s bloated, unconstitutional leviathan, that an income tax would be unnecessary.
People can argue over whether non-payment of taxes is immoral, and whether people are ‘avoiding’ or ‘evading.’ (I think one of those two is illegal, but it’s hard to remember which.) As an organization, we can’t encourage people to break the law. Did Snipes break the law? I have no idea. Did he behave immorally? I don’t know. What I do know is that the law is horrible, and the IRS is immoral.”
(Wes Benedict is Executive Director of the national Libertarian Party)