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States Link Databases to Find Tax Cheats

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  • Privacy Issues (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Liselle (684663) * <(ten.ellesil) (ta) (todhsals)> on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:01PM (#8764892) Journal
    The privacy issues are obvious, but I think privacy advocates can find better battles to fight. I am not fan of Big Brother, but this is not it. Some of the things discussed in the linked article are pretty mundane, like checking to make sure you aren't driving a Rolls Royce and claiming to work at McDonald's. Clearly the system can be abused for malicious purposes, but since that's the case with more or less everything, I think the benefits should outweigh the potential risks, especially if some form of checks and balances is introduced to the system. We'd all be living in caves, scared of our own shadows, otherwise.

    I really don't have a lot of sympathy for people who cheat on their taxes. I play fair, which means I have to pay more to make up the difference from the people screwing over their own government. If database cross-referencing means it will be easier to catch tax evasion, with the side benefit of making audits more efficient, you've got my vote. It even sounds like it will assist in keeping some innocents out of the audit process, which is good. I'm sure more than a few people still remember the high-profile black eyes the IRS got from false alarms.

    A side note: I know the flames in reply will be numerous, because it's not a popular stance, and most won't bother to RTFA or my entire comment. But I wanted to go on record anyway. :P
    • Re:Privacy Issues (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Frisky070802 (591229) * on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:05PM (#8764914) Journal
      Others may flame you, but all I can say is that you took the words out of my keyboard. These sorts of correlations seem reasonable, and if they cut down on the cheats, maybe the honest people will be taxed a little less.
      • by tzanger (1575) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:44PM (#8765161) Homepage

        maybe the honest people will be taxed a little less.

        Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight... What colour is the sky on your planet?

        • Re:Privacy Issues (Score:5, Insightful)

          by zyridium (676524) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @10:22PM (#8765388)
          Well I suppose it all depends on how you think taxes are set...

          1. A method of gaining the necessary revenue to run the country...
          2. A method of extracting as much as possible from people without causing civil unrest...
          • Re:Privacy Issues (Score:5, Insightful)

            by ctr2sprt (574731) on Monday April 05, 2004 @03:41AM (#8766889)
            Oh, that's easy. Taxes are set by inertia. You start with a low tax rate, like 10%. Then something happens, like a war. You need to pay for the war, so you temporarily raise taxes to 25%. The war ends, your temporary tax runs out. But you still need to pay off the enormous debt you ran up during the mobilization, so you only lower taxes back to 15%. As the debts are paid off, they're replaced by popular government spending, like welfare or defense. Eventually ten years have passed and nobody even considers cutting those programs, so the tax rate stays unchanged. Then something else happens, there's another temporary tax increase... you can see where I'm going.

            I really don't think there's any evil intent in Washington on taxes, they just can't say no to shortsighted voters who demand more and more services from the government. (And why should they? Politicians are supposed to do what their constituents want, at least mostly. If they didn't, they wouldn't get reelected.)

            I guess you could say that taxes are set by the voters, since we're all too dumb to consider the price tag when we demand stuff like universal healthcare and a Department of Homeland Security.

      • Reminds me of the good ol' days of when I worked at a "Drug Fair" (sort of a drug store / convenience store / and light supermarket rolled into one).

        We had signs plastered everywhere saying that "Help fight shoplifting. It hurts sales, and without it our prices would be even lower."

        What a bunch of bull. Even if you managed to completely elminate all shoplifting from all Drug Fairs throughout the country, the prices wouldn't even dip. They would keep on asking for the same price, and just rake in the ex
        • Re:Privacy Issues (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Frisky070802 (591229) * on Sunday April 04, 2004 @10:31PM (#8765450) Journal
          My thinking is this: the government spends a certain amount. They want to bring in that amount (modulo whatever it chalks up to the deficit). Just like banks write off uncollectable debts, the USG can write off taxes it ought to be collecting but actually isn't. And just like a bank, it has to charge everyone else a bit extra to make up for it. I do believe that if it collected everything it "deserved" then it could afford to lower taxes. Call me a dreamer.

          Heck, right now the government has claimed to "lower" our taxes, and it hasn't even closed all the loopholes and caught all the cheats. And the deficit's ballooning. If it took in more, even if it didn't lower our taxes as a direct result, this would reduce the deficit, and improve our situation down the road. Right?

          • Re:Privacy Issues (Score:5, Insightful)

            by danheskett (178529) <danheskett@@@gmail...com> on Sunday April 04, 2004 @11:23PM (#8765755)
            You are dreaming. Let's say the government caught all the cheats. And they collected and unexpected $10B. That'd be a lot, right?

            You think they would lower your taxes? Or just add that to the general fund for spending? Really? Lower your taxes? And if they did, how much? $10B isn't a lot. Hell, even $100B spread over everyone isn't a lot. No, the fact is, they would simply spend it. Gone. Just like that.

            For a historical example, look at the tobacco settlement money the states got. Think that went to pay for tobacco healthcare problems? No. That was the claim. The fact is it was wasted in most cases - spend on everything and anything but what it was promised for.
            • Re:Privacy Issues (Score:3, Insightful)

              by dougmc (70836)

              You are dreaming. Let's say the government caught all the cheats. And they collected and unexpected $10B. That'd be a lot, right?

              While I do tend to agree with you, your figure is way off. $10B is only about $40/person in the US. Remember, the national debt (not deficit) works out to something like $24,000/person. [brillig.com]. I've heard it claimed that the US could immediately balance it's budget if all the tax cheating could be stopped. I don't know how they came to this conclusion, but I do tend to believe it.

              • Re:Privacy Issues (Score:3, Insightful)

                by velo_mike (666386)
                I've heard it claimed that the US could immediately balance it's budget if all the tax cheating could be stopped. I don't know how they came to this conclusion, but I do tend to believe it.)

                That would only be true if the government budget was balanced in the first place. If the deficit was due to budgeting 100 billion in collections and only recieving 90 billion due to cheating, than the cheating is causing the deficit.

                As it is today, they planned on taking in 90 billion and spending 110 billion. The r

              • Re:Privacy Issues (Score:5, Insightful)

                by mwood (25379) on Monday April 05, 2004 @10:00AM (#8768603)
                Of course, the more complexity, the easier it is for cheaters to hide. If our hired help in D.C. were serious about collecting our taxes fully, the tax code would be a pamphlet, not an encyclopedia.
    • Re:Privacy Issues (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The flames will be spot on. What you are advocating is accepting the introduction of big brother, just so a few low-level tax cheats can be caught. The high-level tax cheats have better accountants, and a president in office that is probably a tax cheat himself.
    • The idea that one person paying less (whether cheating or not) means another person is paying more is flat wrong.

      Overspending is the problem, not underpaying.

      When someone pays less, they'll just have to figure out how to spend less.
      • Hey, if that means you will stop paying for a huge army, then I (and most of the rest of the world) is all for your tax breaks!

    • "Fair play" (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:10PM (#8764938)
      I play fair, which means I have to pay more to make up the difference from the people screwing over their own government.

      Do you think if everybody paid the taxes they owe that politicians would just lower the tax rate overall? The government will take all it can get.

      Ronald Regan said it best (and please don't take this as some unqualified endorsement of the "good-old-days of Ronald Regan): "Government is like a baby. All appetite at one end, and no responsibility at the other."

      • Re:"Fair play" (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ornil (33732)
        Let's suppose they wouldn't lower the taxes, although it is not so clear in the long term. At the very least they would be less likely to increase the taxes. They usually increase taxes when the government (federal or state) is really out of money.

        But let's even forget about this. They are going to spend the money on something, and it will be of use to someone, whether it is simply used to pay some guy's salary or for some government program, it is still put to way better use than if it stayed in the cheat
    • Re:Privacy Issues (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DarkSarin (651985)
      You are right in so many ways, but wrong in some of the more important ones.

      The trouble is that you are relying on individuals with a vested interest in getting as much money out of you as possible (for a wide variety of reasons) to put checks and balances that work into a system designed to get money from the populace.

      Whether we like it or not, we have gone from a majority government (democracy) to a republic (which ONLY works IF the elected representatives are truly ACCOUNTABLE to the people they are su
      • Re:Privacy Issues (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Bozdune (68800)
        OK, I'll take up the gauntlet, although this isn't intended as a flame.

        The problem with Libertarians is that they assume that things will get done "just because." If a bridge ought to exist over a river, then someone will build the bridge and charge others to cross it; Libertarians reason that if the bridge can't pay for itself, then it shouldn't exist, and nobody will build it, and that's fine, QED.

        In reality, I suspect that very little along these lines would get done at all. People are far too selfis
    • Re:Privacy Issues (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Fnkmaster (89084) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @10:34PM (#8765469)
      Sounds nice in theory, you "play fair". Me, I play fair too, but I do eek back every red cent I can from the government (without lying of course), and I'm VERY good at coming up with deductions.


      But there are some things I find ridiculous, being a resident of Taxachusetts, one of the fine states mentioned in this article. Like that great 5% "Use Tax" - they basically expect me to report something I bought off of eBay, or from Dell, and pay sales tax on it just like if I bought it from the store around the corner. I realize you say you "play fair", but do you go and add up every item you buy on the internet and report it to your state to make sure they are getting their "fair share" of that dollar they already taxed once when you earned it? I realize you may live in a more sane state than I do so this all sounds far fetched to you, but that's the reality of living here.


      I won't even get into the raw insanity that is working for a New York LLC and being a Massachusetts resident who travels to New York for work frequently. If you work one day out of the year in New York, New York thinks you owe taxes on the COMPLETE total sum of the monies paid to you by the New York LLC or Corporation. Massachusetts, being slightly less insane, will actually let you count this amount against your taxes owed in Massachusetts, I believe. But I'm certainly not so honest that I plan on filing taxes in New York and figuring this out, just because I travel there and do some work there now and again. They aren't going to eat their 8.whatever percent of my income instead of just letting me pay the honest 5.whatever I owe Massachusetts.


      So anyway, yes, I support paying my fair share to the state and federal government, but I don't support letting them unfairly rape me. And I honestly have never met anyone in Massachusetts who goes and adds up their out-of-state purchases for the "Use Tax".

    • My problem isn't with the use of databases in a manner like this, I question whether or not being absent from these databases will be enough to raise eyebrows at the IRS. Whenever possible, I pay using cash. If it's something that I don't want people to know I'm buying, it's cash. If I buy cigarettes, usually I pay with cash. When I buy a gun, I pay with cash. When I buy fatty foods, I pay with cash.

      As long as this practice doesn't lead to someone saying "Hey, this Kano fellow never buys food. EVER! He mus
  • Tax $ Tug of War (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erick99 (743982) * <homerun@gmail.com> on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:02PM (#8764893)
    Taxpayers only have to pay the minimum tax with which they can get away. At the same time, the IRS and other taxing agencies are trying to find those who are illegally paying too little or not at all. That seems fair, I suppose. This part of the article sorts of sums it up:

    "We're asking people to pay their taxes that are legitimately due," he said. "And if we don't have people pay the taxes that are due, then we have to ask the people that are stepping forward to pay more. And that's not fair."

    On the other hand, I think these data repositories and the data mining technology that fill these massive databases are obviously digging up unrelated but interesting data and *that* can lead to abuse and I think it will lead to abuse.

    At some point the government and the populace has to determine the risk/reward values of filling the tax coffers against the potentially huge violation of peoples rights to privacy. For now, I think the gov't is moving ahead with initiatives with which I do not think the majority of the population would endorse.

    Happy Trails!

    Erick

    • by the_mad_poster (640772) <shattoc@adelphia.com> on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:19PM (#8765005) Homepage Journal

      I agree with you, but I agree with this guy too [slashdot.org].

      The one thing that I always come back to when I read these things is "yes, it's performing a useful, valid task NOW.... but what will it be doing in 10 years?"

      The government (any government, actually) likes to introduce things like this in legitimate areas. They say "oh, we're just hunting down tax evaders, nothing you need to concern yourself with. It's GOOD for you."

      Bear in mind, however... there was no permanent federal income tax until 1913. Country did just fine for almost 140 years with no income tax except in dire situations (read: when war broke out). Then, they said "oh, this is for your own good - you need to pay for the war in Europe to protect freedom and blah blah blah".

      Well... here we sit, 91 years later, saying "well... it's for the best."

      It's not a forgone conclusion that it will be abused. No, of course not. But it IS a possibility... and history is not on our side when it comes to the U.S. government abusing newfound powers...

      • by bishop32x (691667) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:32PM (#8765091)
        The federal goverment did verly liite during those 140 years too, the biggest governemnt agency(in terms of employees) was the post office, when the governement got bigger it needed more taxes to sustian it.

        In view of the programs(well some of them) funds its still for the best. How would you feel with no national police orginization(not a reduced force, none, absolutly no cross border investigations), no social security, no FDIC, no Federal Reserve, no CDC, and absolutly no national regulation agianst corporations?

        • by The Vulture (248871) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @10:15PM (#8765344) Homepage
          Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, I'm under 30, and it's highly unlikely that I'll actually see anything that I'm contributing. Currently, I contribute to my own personal savings plans, and I'd love to have the option to opt out of Social Security (I'd put that money into my own savings instead).

          The FDIC is of limited use as well. If you screw up your finances, you could still lose tons of money (FDIC only covers up to $100,000), but if the economy really tanked and all banks went belly-up, it has been estimated that FDIC would cover seven cents on the dollar (no source to cite that, I received it from a friend who was subscribed to an e-mail list).

          Some of the other programs you mention are useful, but some government programs are a complete waste (or benefit too few people to be considered very useful).

          -- Joe
          • by Shakrai (717556)
            The FDIC is of limited use as well. If you screw up your finances, you could still lose tons of money (FDIC only covers up to $100,000)

            If you have more then $100,000 in cash onhand then somehow I doubt you'll be in too much pain if your bank fails. The FDIC exists to protect the Mom & Pop type people that got screwed over by failing banks during the great depression. Anyone with over $100,000 on hand is going to diversify their investments and should (in theory) be fairly immune to the ups and downs

      • by brunes69 (86786) <`slashdot' `at' `keirstead.org'> on Sunday April 04, 2004 @10:25PM (#8765406) Homepage

        Bear in mind, however... there was no permanent federal income tax until 1913. Country did just fine for almost 140 years with no income tax except in dire situations (read: when war broke out). Then, they said "oh, this is for your own good - you need to pay for the war in Europe to protect freedom and blah blah blah".

        Man I am sick of this kind of horseshit about cheap ass whiners who hate paying their taxes.

        Know what else the country didn't have in 1913? National highways to maintain, huge publicly funded transit systems, security agencies like the NSA and CIA to keep you safe, social security, medicare, the largest military in the universe....

        Want to ditch income tax? Fine - lay off about half the people paid directly or indirectly by the military ( oh, 2 million give or take ), get rid of old age security and let your parents die of starvation as they grow old and can't afford food because of their perscriptions ( oh, because medicare is also gone ). Then watch as terrorists come in and take over your state because a) You had no agency to gather intelligence on such things b) You have no infrastructure in place to defend yourself anymore.

        Grow up, this is the twenty first century. Every country in the first world has income tax - know why? Because shit costs money, and people like you are too greedy to fork it over for the general good by choice, so we have to legislate it out of you.

        Personally, I think the government is way too easy on tax evasion. In my opinion, if you don't care enough about the country to pay a small portion of it, then you don't care enough to stay here either. They should all be stripped of their citizenship and deported. Fines / Jailtime is too easy.

        • by Mr. Piddle (567882) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @10:48PM (#8765528)
          the largest military in the universe....

          The Vogons do not share your opinion.
        • Re:Tax $ Tug of War (Score:5, Interesting)

          by silentbozo (542534) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @11:45PM (#8765879) Journal
          Know what else the country didn't have in 1913? National highways to maintain, huge publicly funded transit systems, security agencies like the NSA and CIA to keep you safe, social security, medicare, the largest military in the universe..

          Of that list you put out, the only things that really require income tax to fund are the NSA, CIA, and the military. Transit and highways fall under transportation (which can be funded by gas and transit taxes, and by local and state bond issues which will be paid with local and state taxes), social security and medicare are welfare taxes that are levied separately from the federal income tax.

          Apart from the issues with all of these items (ie, Social Security, where you pay money in for the people currently drawing out, in exchange for the thin possibility some wage earner in the future will do the same for you), the government needs money only to do the things that we, as a people, have deemed that it is necessary for the government to do.

          For example, with regards to the common defense, most people don't want to devote part of their time to serving in the armed forces, so we pay people to serve full-time and part-time (also, a volunteer force is more effective, but the idea is we'd rather commit money than time.) Same thing with law enforcement, the court system, roads, etc. - it is a delegation of authority and responsibility, that requires funding in order to work.

          Because shit costs money, and people like you are too greedy to fork it over for the general good by choice, so we have to legislate it out of you.

          "We", meaning the majority of American citizens, or "we", as in the minority of special interests think they know what's best for the rest of us? Most of us are fine with being taxed for services we use - its the services we DON'T use, and the misuses of those funds that we object to. Consider that fact that the federal income tax is a "pay as you go" tax - if you run a business, you must remit quarterly tax receipts if you expect to make a profit that year. As an individual, you must pay taxes throughout the year, and come tax day, you either get to pay more money, or you get a refund (with no interest.)

          Where does that money go? To print lots of paper for stupid laws proposed by special interests, to pay for staff and telephones, and fax machines for the politicians who then spend time debating these stupid laws, who then pass the stupid laws, which are then challenged in court, resulting in more money to print more paper, pay judges, court reporters, etc. to try the case in court, and finally, if upheld, to pay for enforcement of those laws.

          In the case of tax laws, they're taxing you in order to pay for enforcers to make sure you're paying your taxes. What a racket!

          Personally, I think the government is way too easy on tax evasion. In my opinion, if you don't care enough about the country to pay a small portion of it, then you don't care enough to stay here either. They should all be stripped of their citizenship and deported. Fines / Jailtime is too easy.

          Funny thing you propose that. Too bad the IRS will not let anyone give up their US Citizenship if they think that they're doing it to evade taxes.

          Personally, I think anyone who shirks from jury duty should be stripped of citizenship. If I'm going to have to give up a month's pay because two sets of assholes have nothing better to do than waste the time of a judge and jury on a civil case (they ended up settling while we were on the second day of deliberations), then by god, you should too!
        • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @11:58PM (#8765976) Journal
          Know what else the country didn't have in 1913? National highways to maintain,

          Which are supposed to be maintained out of the gas taxes. But the bureaucrats keep ripping it off to fund other stuff, such as:

          huge publicly funded transit systems,

          Which cost FAR more per ride than cars. And pollute more than a car with two passengers. And are one of the big forces promoting ghettoization and urban sprawl. (For mass transit to work AT ALL you need a mass of people at one place who need to commute to work at another.)

          If mass transit systems can't be run at a profit it means one or both of two things: there's no real demand for them or the people running them are not competent (in which case they're useless even if they COULD have been useful).

          security agencies like the NSA and CIA to keep you safe,

          By tapping our phones and internet, "dirty tricking" opposition politicians, testing virus delivery systems on US urban populations (and nuclear istotpe exposure on "marginal" rural populations (such as indians and people living with them), assasinating foreign leaders, destabilizing social institutions in countries that aren't friendly to US industries (even if they are friendly to US interests otherwise) - then "retiring" to form organizations to destabilize social institutions here at home, overestimating the threat from the Soviet Union, missing the threat from certain middle-eastern terrorists, and I could go on for hours (since THEY went on for decades).

          social security,

          The worlds largest ponzi scheme. It won't be here when I'm retired. All that money I could have been investing (or using to buy a home and raise the children I'll now never have) has been spent on the previous generation and the only way they'll have anything to pay for us boomers is to totally enslave generations X and Y.

          medicare,

          Even more so. (And the people it serves are, on the average, better off than the people who are taxed to pay for it.)

          the largest military in the universe

          Which was supposed to be f***ing DISBANDED after WWII. The US is not SUPPOSED to have a standing army.

          But with the income tax they were able to keep it going, and become cops of the world. And with private armament development crippled by the first of the federal gun bans they could argue that they needed it.

          Hogwash.

          Want to ditch income tax? Fine - lay off about half the people paid directly or indirectly by the military ( oh, 2 million give or take ),

          Sounds good to me.

          Let's put the military back into its proper form.

          get rid of old age security and let your parents die of starvation as they grow old and can't afford food because of their perscriptions ( oh, because medicare is also gone ).

          Your man's straw is showing. "Oh, horrors! Without these government programs people will starve and die." Well guess what: First, they aren't falling off the cliff you drew, and second the government (as usual) is ripping off the bulk of the money that's SUPPOSED to go to "help" them for other purposes, while bleeding the NEXT batch white.

          shit costs money, and people like you are too greedy to fork it over for the general good by choice

          NOW it's out in the open. "You're too greedy to give and too stupid to save. So we eitists who know better will just have to steal it from you to do the things that SHOULD be done with it, while calling you names the whole while."

          Grow up yourself, commisar.

          The people are MUCH smarter than you give them credit for. And are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves - and each other - voluntarily - when you and your minions aren't stealing their savings and spending $2.60 on yourselves for every $1.00 you spend giving them some "benefit" - usually not the one they need.

          Socialism is theft.
  • by BWJones (18351) * on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:02PM (#8764896) Homepage Journal
    Hmmmm. This sounds much like an extension of MATRIX, only we are not examining only criminals per se, but we are now examining everyone with the assumption that they are cheating on their taxes. Of course if you are cheating you are a criminal, but this again establishes a loss of privacy and presumes that your information is available to search without a court order. I wonder if the same company behind MATRIX, Seisint is the company behind or involved with this new initiative?

  • It's about time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 77Punker (673758) <spencr04@nOsPAm.highpoint.edu> on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:04PM (#8764903)
    Finally they're starting to actually use what they have wisely instead of starting a whole new database to do this, which is a more likely scenario than this. Imagine how much smarter and cheaper our government could work if all its agencies would even try to use their data effectively, or at least share amongst themselves!
    • Re:It's about time (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shakrai (717556)
      Imagine how much smarter and cheaper our government could work if all its agencies would even try to use their data effectively, or at least share amongst themselves!

      We don't want our Government sharing data between different levels of Government or different agencies anymore then is absolutely necessary. Separation of powers is a good thing -- even if it causes some short term headaches.

  • by nizo (81281) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:06PM (#8764918) Homepage Journal
    Time to get a national sales tax. Quit taking taxes out of people's paychecks, and tax items everyone buys.

    Advantages:


    - Never file a tax return again


    - Even illegal money (i.e. drug money) is taxed as it is spent


    - Americans are encouraged to actually save money, since if they don't spend it, they don't pay taxes on it


    - Provide a sliding scale on needed items vs luxury items (food=cheap tax, yachts=expensive tax)


    - Get rid of the outmoded IRS and save a whole pile of money right there


    Ok, time for me to run and hide, since they probably have the slashdot user database linked to my real name....

    • A simple sales tax is the best example of a regressive tax, that is, one that taxes the poor more than is generally desirable. Your "sliding scale" concept would fix this, but coming up with/applying the scale would be a healthy bit of complexity/bureaucracy in itself.
      In addition, putting money into play, via spending, is one of the keys to spending. Encouraging people to keep their money under their mattress, rather than buy needed products, would provide a stiff kick to the economy's figurative balls.

      jus
    • Get rid of the outmoded IRS and save a whole pile of money right there

      And that is the reason this will never happen. Too many people have too much power since they can manipulate the tax code. This would be a lot harder to do with a national sales tax. Not to mention, politicians would have a much harder time creating special tax brackets and fighting about 'tax cuts for the rich'. That being said, I think a national sales tax is an excellent idea, provided the income tax is actually eliminated.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:13PM (#8764959)
      Dear Nizo,

      Please note that we have scheduled a tax audit for you the morning of April 20th. Please bring all paperwork and please be sure not to eat anything after 4pm the night before.

      Sincerely,

      The IRS
    • They'll just start a sales tax on top of the federal taxes we're already paying.

      The only way this could work in the average taxpayer's favor .... is too complicated to ever actually happen.

      Just lower the rates. Loopholes and cheating will have a smaller advantage and they'll be used less often.

    • The only thing I don't agree with here is the sliding scale. If I pay $100 for a program, and get taxed $1, then that's fine. Additionally, if I spend $100,000 on a boat, then tax me $1,000. The government shouldn't get into the area of determining what people "need".

      Even if there was a flat 10% income tax, it would generate more revenue by eliminating the overhead with collects it...because the IRS is by no means efficient.

      Eliminate the IRS...and make everyone pay a fair, equal share, I say.

      Now, ther
      • by tunabomber (259585) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:54PM (#8765215) Homepage
        ...but let's not forget that the wealthy spend their money too, which invariably helps out everyone.

        I'd like to think this, but actually I have a hard time believing that much of the money the rich spend ever trickles down to the poor. One of the reasons for this is the inherent downward flow of money in a company. When you buy a product from company X, the people who run/own company X get a piece of the profits, and then pass as little as they can get away with down to their subordinates.
        The second problem is that consumerism causes inflation. You don't spend money in a vacuum; when you buy something, it drives up the price of that product for others, thanks to the law of supply, price and demand.
        This is why the lower classes aren't all that excited about Bush's "across-the-board" tax cuts: living costs are increasing at a rate that far outstrips the extra few hundred dollars that they're saving on taxes each year. And on top of that, the rich are getting huge amounts back from the tax cuts, which means they will spend more, further driving up costs of goods and services.
        The problem is especially manifest in the housing and gasoline markets, because housing and gasoline are both commodities that everyone needs.
        My solution to this would be to have our tax tables change each year depending on the cost of living. If the cost of living increased from the previous year, then the taxes will become more progressive (harsher on the upper class), and if the cost of living decreased, vice-versa.
    • by sjbe (173966) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:20PM (#8765018)
      A national sales tax is a good idea with three major reasons why it will never be implemented.

      1) It is disproportionately hard on poor people. This makes it a political hot potato. No politician wants to be seen as being against poor people. (regardless of what their actual opinion is)

      2) There are two reasons for having taxes the way we do. One is raising money and the other is social engineering. The government provides all kinds of tax benefits for behavior they want to encourage. (like marriage)

      3) Ever wonder why we have that "Other Income" line right above the adjusted gross income? It's to catch drug dealers and other criminals. That's how they caught Al Capone. Not for a crime but for not declaring (illegally gotten) income on his taxes. Can't do that with a sales tax.
      • "It is disproportionately hard on poor people."

        How? Are different people charged different sales tax rates?

        Or is it because then rich people would have more money in their bank or under their mattress or whatever? But if they're only spending as much as a poor person, they're also living as a poor person as well. Why should the richer person be penalized solely because of the size of the lump they have to sleep on?

        "There are two reasons for having taxes the way we do. One is raising money and the ot
        • by michael_cain (66650) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @10:47PM (#8765520) Journal
          "It is disproportionately hard on poor people."

          How? Are different people charged different sales tax rates?

          To state the obvious -- no, it's harder on the poor because they're NOT charged different sales tax rates. A 15% tax on someone trying to live on $15K/year will cut into the basics -- food, minimal shelter, health care. A 15% tax on someone living on $150K/year will cut into the luxeries -- they can pay the tax and still afford enormously better food, housing and medical care than the person with $15K. And someone taking home $15M/year won't even notice the 15% tax -- the lifestyle differences between $15M/year and $12.75M/year are insignificant.

          • by Fruny (194844) on Monday April 05, 2004 @01:54AM (#8766529)
            To state the obvious -- no, it's harder on the poor because they're NOT charged different sales tax rates. A 15% tax on someone trying to live on $15K/year will cut into the basics -- food, minimal shelter, health care.

            Who said you had to tax all products equally. In France there is, as of 2001, three tax rates:

            • a 'normal' rate of 19.8%
            • a 'reduced' rate of 5.5% (water, electricty, most foodstuffs, drugs, books, museum admission, lawyer fees...)
            • a 'super-reduced' rate of 2.1% (newspapers & magazines, drugs, ...)
            You can thus leave a low tax rate on basic necessities and slap a large tax on luxury products.
  • by doormat (63648) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:11PM (#8764946) Homepage Journal
    would be to have every employer send (electronically) your W-2 to the IRS. Then they can compare what you say you make vs what you actually made. I dont know where the majority of tax cheats are made (lying about income, or lying about deductions), but this could cut off one avenue...
    • would be to have every employer send (electronically) your W-2 to the IRS.

      I believe that already happens - it's how the Social Security Admin gets your salary history for benefit calculations.

      Most tax cheating comes from lying about cash income - businesses like bars etc. that do most of their business in cash, or claims for deductions that aren't real.

  • Oh no! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Quasar1999 (520073) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:14PM (#8764966) Journal
    The IRS has access to my taxes? The Canadian finance minister personally assured me that the IRS won't bug me about the $1200 I won in Vegas last year.

    What do I do? OMG, they'll claim I didn't pay my taxes, and then prove that I funded some sort of newfie terrorist network, no, wait, some FRENCH terrorist network with that money, then I'll get a free trip to cuba... hmm... doesn't sound all that bad...
  • AHH!! (Score:3, Funny)

    by ticklemeozmo (595926) <justin.j.novack@ac[ ]rg ['m.o' in gap]> on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:14PM (#8764969) Homepage Journal
    It's not too late to change your taxes!! :)
  • by darthcamaro (735685) * on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:18PM (#8764998)
    I wonder if they'll like it with the FBI's Carnivore email system to track emails with subject headers like "I'm going to cheat on my taxes."
  • What about bad data? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ForceQuit (307355) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:19PM (#8765006)
    The chance of bad data causing an innocent person harm scares me. I haven't been able to e-file my taxes for the past two years because the IRS and SSA can't seem to get my birthday right this year or my entire identity last year. Since they think I'm 20 years older than I really am, how would that throw off the auto-profiling??
  • by Praedon (707326) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:19PM (#8765010) Journal
    This is just a new way to look at things.. Sure they are cross referencing peoples databases with other databases to see if you bought a car that is higher than on an average of what you make, but WHO CARES? Ya know? So what if people bought new cars mysteriously... I say the only reason the IRS Should care about taxes, is if you didn't file them in the first place... Besides.. Like I said in my subject, they had this info.. Just a new method of using it!
  • by pongo000 (97357) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:29PM (#8765077)
    That's the euphemistic name for the Texas agency that's reponsible for tracking down those who try to get around Texas' use tax laws. Problem is, they can be very overly aggressive, even when you're in the right.

    Case in point: I bought a plane one time, a 1979 Cessna 172, around $40,000. There's exceptions to the use tax law that says if the plane is used for flight instruction, it's exempt from use tax. Well, a few years after my purchase, I received a bill from the state of Texas, somewhere in the vicinity of $5000 (including penalties), along with a threat to put a lien on the aircraft if I didn't pay up. It took several months, copies of my logbooks, certifications from instructors, etc. to finally get the state off my back. (I say that, but I've never been sure if that's the case -- the state simply stopped pursuing me without actually telling me I was in the right.)

    The point here is that "data aggregation" will inevitably lead to erroneous assumptions, especially when disparate records are linked together. Unfortunately, the burden of proof will lie with the target to prove they *don't* owe a tax. I can see it now: Driving a lonely stretch of interstate late at night in the middle of nowhere, stopped by a hick sheriff who tells you you'll be spending the night in jail because DMV records indicate you didn't pay sales taxes on all that on-line stuff you've bought over the years.

    This is dangerous stuff, and one of the very few areas I believe Congress needs to intervene in to prevent abuse of data that was never meant to be aggregated, linked, and abused.
  • Haha (Score:3, Funny)

    by bobetov (448774) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:33PM (#8765098) Homepage
    I think I just received one of these letters. Here's a quote:
    Dear Sir/Madam:


    Department records indicate that we maynot have received your North Carolina tax return for the year indicated above. ... If you have filed a return, please furnish a copy of the return. If you were not required to file a return, please furnish an explanation.
    The funny part? It's for 1999, two years before I'd ever set foot in North Carolina. And it was sent April 1st...

    COINCIDENCE????

  • by sdo1 (213835) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:35PM (#8765109) Journal
    The Massachusetts Department of Revenue is really interested in getting their hands on the sales tax on items purchased in tax-free New Hampshire. New England states are small, and NH is well within an hour's drive of a good chunk of the MA population. A lot of MA residents take advantage of that to head to NH to buy big ticket items like computers and TVs. If I drop $3K on a new HDTV, it's worth my time to head to NH and buy it up there and save $150 in sales tax. But if I put the thing on a credit card (and I'd be stupid not to given extended warranty services and the like), there's a database that the MA DOR can easily tap into.

    On the MA income tax forms there's a space for "use tax" that you can fill out to tell the state what you bought out of state and how much owe them. How nice. My tax preparer said that she didn't have a single client all year that volunteered that information to the state.

    How long before they can audit out-of-state store records to see if their citizenry have been shopping in NH and not volunteering to pay the tax?

    They don't call this state "Taxachusetts" for nothing. It's no wonder people and jobs are leaving...

    -S
  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:38PM (#8765130)
    What the article is pointing out is that Massachusetts state offiicals are going after Massachusetts residents who show that they've paid a custom duty on an item but haven't paid the use tax on an item. Use tax is the tax that is put on an item that is brought in from a state with a lower sales tax than Massachusetts.

    The problem with collecting use tax from an individual is that Massachusetts tax authorites can't make a New Hampshire store turn over names of people who shop there because they're outside of their jurisdiction, nor can they make the buyers confess to shopping in New Hampshire thanks to protection from self-incrimination. It's a tax that's on the books, but in most cases uncollectable.

    "Tax free" shopping is a myth... if you avoid the sales tax you owe the use tax. Again, however, the state's going to have a hard time chasing you.

    However, if you pay a customs duty while bringing an item into the USA and you live in MA... it's a pretty good case of "gotcha" that you owe the use tax on that item and haven't paid it. So, this is simply taking federal government records and using them to collect a state tax too. So, the unlucky few getting these notices just got caught ducking a tax nearly everyone doesn't pay...
  • by Romancer (19668) <romancerNO@SPAMdeathsdoor.com> on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:40PM (#8765141) Journal


    I'd rather have my tax dollars spent to make the system somewhat competant.

    Say for instance, the ability for the IRS to do the math correct in the first place instead of having to take out money from my check every pay period in the hopes that it will be somewhere near the amount I will actually owe at the end of the year!

    Seriously, why can't the majority of middle class simple workers fill out the forms at the beginning of the year that we fill out at the end stating our status and then have them take out the proper amount? No guesswork no fuss. If the status changes during the year then we can fill out an adendum simply stating what happened, like a marrage, newborn, etc. Submit it online and the amount taken out each pay period changes at the time of the change itself.

    Most years people don't change their status and wouldn't have to fill out any forms at all.
    For the automatic changes such as age or pay increase the forms should be automaticly submitted or added to by the company.

    For sophisticated tax people you could submit reciepts on a monthly or yearly basis and get the return like normal but you would skip the basic forms because you're you and on file already.

    I'd rather this be implemented than the privacy thwarting database linkup like they propose here.

    USE MY TAX DOLLARS FOR ME!! NOT AGAINST ME!!
  • Simple Taxes (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Cap'nZoiks (768482) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:44PM (#8765159)
    Wouldn't it just be better to have a simple tax code, so that it is obvious if there is tax cheating? Instead we have a system that is easy to cheat, requires databases and coast-to-coast networks to look for "tax cheat patterns", employs an army of IRS agents to conduct audits on people, and requires the average joe to pay up to the local H&R Block to make sure they aren't missing out on any tax cuts or loopholes. I say simplify the tax code so that it's transparent to the average American, put these guys chasing down the tax cheats to work finding terrorist cells (using all that pattern recognition technology), fire the IRS, and lay off the CPAs. We don't need this BS. Americans deserve transparency.
  • by Chordonblue (585047) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:49PM (#8765187) Journal
    ...If the damned IRS could keep it's OWN records straight, much less mesh them with others.

    My father found out the hard way what happens between IRS 'zones' (we moved around a lot - military). There was a discrepancy (totally honest) that didn't show for almost 20 years and then they tried to slam us for back payments with interest. This is something that they KNEW about at the time, but never informed us through any other zone.

    It took the work of a local representative to clear things up. At that time you couldn't even bring a lawyer or tape recorder in with you when you went to see them.

    This is the kind of headline that scares me (and should scare YOU) green! :O

  • pentagon (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zogger (617870) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @09:52PM (#8765203) Homepage Journal
    --just the pentagon has lost over two TRILLION dollars, lost, stolen, unaccounted for, gone, poof-a-rama. That's just one government agency. Run any search you want, dod, lost money, etc you'll find tons of links on this subject.

    Add it up, the government is the biggest thief in the US. Pack of hypocritical liars. Research the sordid history of the creation of the "federal" reserve and the IRS. Nerd, educate thyself!

    That gang of crooks, entrenched year after year, both major "parties" running the government as their private cash cow, millions of workers, almost no accountability--it's beyond disgust.. The sheer scale of government financial malfesance is awesome, and their "crying foul" and data mining to find alleged "cheats" is the pitiful squeaking of insatiable bloated ticks.

    Think about it, government's position is all of your labor is their's by default, then they come up with some magic formula over how much you are allowed to keep-this year. And said magic formula is so arcane and convulted that no two "agents" of the infernal revenue service can look at a complicated tax "return" and arrive at the same figures. Every year someplace you will see a similar test, an ex agent perhaps, a CPA, someone from one of the popular tax preparation companies, all given the same hypothetical taxpayer info, and they never come up with the same figures.

    It's nuts. Scrap the system, cut government back down to manageable size by attrition, with a freeze on new hires being a good starting point. Scrap entire un needed and unwanted agencies. Get rid of the large standing army. Retire the whole government pension system, make it ten years maximum government "service" then you are out, no pension, top to bottom, especially politicians. Make campaign contributions from any cartel, org, corporation, etc be illegal, because they are bribes, call it what it really is. Reduce personal contributions to a maximum of one hundred dollars.. Use excise taxes as a replacement for "income" taxes, like it was before the 16th. DUMP the fed and send greenspawn and his fellow reserve governor-demons packing (to prison for fraud and racketeering), end the welfare state for billionaires. Take away legal personhood for corporations. End the revolving door of electing lawyers to congress so they can pass more laws that only benefit their leeching guild.

    There are several good solutions to "the tax problem" out there, just the people who actually COULD implement them have zero incentive TO implement them, because it would put them out of their parasitical jobs. /rant
  • Tax Idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kidgenius (704962) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @10:03PM (#8765255)
    My stepdad always had an interesting way that he thought taxes should be implemented. He says that you should get rid of income taxes altogether and instead implement nationwide/statewide sales taxes. Yes, items will cost a lot more, but almost everybody has to buy stuff. Rich people buy more expensive stuff, poorer people buy cheaper stuff. Yet, you have a flat rate tax on the items. It is fair and legitmate. Hell, tax frauds, drug dealers, etc., can't get away with not paying taxes in this system because they still have to buy goods and services.
  • by Daimaou (97573) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @10:10PM (#8765317)
    The government is more than happy to overcharge you on your taxes if you don't know about it, so I think the reverse should be just as valid.
  • Our privacy is going away. I have no doubt about it, and I'm not actually all that worried about our privacy going away. I am worried about who has access to this combined information. I think we should all have access to it.

    1. Because we all know that we do embarassing things.

    2. People who cannot check the actions of their elected officials, are subject to as horrible a system as there ever was, We can do our own datamining and do our tests/queries to check them, If we are not allowed to, the government should not have the right to do such things.

    3 There are some downsides to having no privacy, so we should only trade our privacy as there are other ways to protect our interestes...

    in the case of voting, we could be blackmailed or coersed to vote a certain way. If we had a big enough group who are willing to fight to the death about an issue, the other group will probably see the opportunity cost as being too high, and will not force people to vote a certain way.

    4. We can also deal with limited term privacy, we can have our elected officials encyrpt data in a fassion that it can be decrypted in a certain amount of time... this has problems as one groups attack method could reveal the information almost immediately... so that wouldn't work.. but the goverment could encrypt the data in two fassions, and release the hash of the data in one format, and the date that the data will key will be decryptable, then when the private key is released, we could decrypt the info, and perform the multiple has functions to verify that the data was what was acted upon.

    We have no privacy.. that isn't neccissarily a bad thing
  • by CygnusXII (324675) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @10:27PM (#8765424)
    "Another man, Buttle, B58/732, a shoe repair operative, was wrongfully scheduled for Information Retrieval with officer 412/L, but thankfully the error was cleared up just in time and a full apology given to his widow. "

    Sooner or later this is where, we'll be. Like it or not.

    Guess I'll need a new tinfoil hat.
  • by Goo.cc (687626) * on Sunday April 04, 2004 @10:37PM (#8765476)
    While in the Navy, I was stationed in Maryland. Being a Florida resident, I did not have to file a state income tax, only a federal one. But shortly after filing a federal tax return with a Maryland return address, the state of Maryland sent me a letter, seeking state income tax. I told them I was a Florida resident in the military and that was enough to end to situation.

    When did this happen? 1994.
  • by vudufixit (581911) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @10:45PM (#8765513)
    I hear this again and again that somehow if people who don't pay what they are supposed to, deficits wouldn't be as severe.
    Nonsense, I say. Budgets are predicated on spending priorities and incoming receipts. Governments will spend what they want, regardless of how much revenue is taken in.
    How many times has a government instituted a new tax (Connecticut's fairly recent income tax, for example) to "close a budget gap" only to have that same gap magically reappear.
    I just don't believe that those uncollected taxes are specially earmarked for "deficit reduction."
  • by GordoSlasher (243738) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @10:47PM (#8765524)
    As long as they can't link to the Microsoft Money database on my PC I'm safe.
  • by argoff (142580) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @10:54PM (#8765550)
    Last I read, Nevada and Florida are the only two states that don't share their info with the IRS.

    Other states don't have state income taxes, and so don't keep track of as much .... NV, FL, TX, TN, and a few more I believe. ( I forgot wether TN had no income taxes, or really low ones, there are also some other northern states I know I forgot to mention)

    Also, I believe Nevada and Wyoming are the only states that allow bearer shares - which means you can hold ownership of a company without your name being on public record, a competent lawyer can have their name on the public record instead - which is supposed to protect against tax hounds and personal liabilities.
  • Corporations (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jafafa Hots (580169) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @11:04PM (#8765602) Homepage Journal
    good! Now we can catch all those large corporations costing the government billions each year byt not paying taxes, because they open up a post office box in the Cayman Islands. You know, companies like Halliburton!
    This will be great!

    What? What do you mean "no?" :(
  • by Trolling4Dollars (627073) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @11:50PM (#8765922) Journal
    If you AREN'T cheating on your taxes (which you shouldn't be) then you have nothing to worry about. Frankly, they'd be doing me a favor if they tracked all my online purchases and applied the appropriate taxes. It was a pain in the ass for me to go through my e-mail receipts and figure out how much I bought in untaxed merchandise off the net. Took me a good hour and a half to go trhough it all. About the only way to keep track of it is to print everything out an I HATE paper. Keep it all electronic and have it done for me automatically and I'll be a happy camper. I don't have aproblem with paying my fair share to the system, I just have a problem working out all the crap paperwork to do it. That's why I curse tax day... It has nothing to do with them "taking" the money from me.
  • by serutan (259622) <snoopdougNO@SPAMgeekazon.com> on Monday April 05, 2004 @12:17AM (#8766055) Homepage
    Three words:

    National Sales Tax.

    Instead of taxing people for achievement (income), tax them for consumption (spending). A national sales tax of 20% on all retail transactions would generate the same revenue collected now, but with a tiny fraction of the overhead.

    To counteract the regressive nature of the sales tax, everybody would receive a fixed dollar amount refund. That refund would be equal to the tax rate times the federal definition of poverty level income. The basis for this is that a person whose income is at poverty level must spend all their income to survive. If that person and everybody else receives the same size refund, it would amount to a 100% refund for the poor and a smaller percentage refund for higher income people. People would automatically pay an infinitely graduated tax because people with higher incomes buy more.

    All the privacy issues generated by federal income tax would go away.

    The overhead involved would be practically zero. The IRS would need only a fraction of its current 100,000+ employees, to deal with state revenue agencies to collect the fed's share. If they still insisted on doing audits, rather than letting the existing state agencies handle it, they would be looking at 12 million businesses collecting sales tax instead of 170 million people currently paying income tax.

    All business taxes and corporate income taxes would go away. The national sales tax would be on end user purchases only. All the hidden taxes paid by companies and built into the prices of everything would be gone.

    All the costs of calculating personal and business taxes and trying to avoid them would go away, along with all of the associated record keeping. An army of clerks, accountants, lawyers and consultants whose jobs are based entirely on taxation would have to find something productive to do.

    Congress would lose its ability to use tax breaks to repay campaign contributions.

    About 7 years ago there was a proposal to do the above. It died in committee.
    • All business taxes and corporate income taxes would go away. The national sales tax would be on end user purchases only.

      As business is economically not an enduser of anything (everything a business does is associated with providing a good or service to ultimately an individual consumer) under this system they would pay no tax at all.

      No politician will ever propose a system where corporations do not pay any tax at any stage. No matter how sound it might be economically.

      To counteract the regressive nature

      • by serutan (259622) <snoopdougNO@SPAMgeekazon.com> on Monday April 05, 2004 @02:12AM (#8766576) Homepage
        As business is economically not an enduser of anything (everything a business does is associated with providing a good or service to ultimately an individual consumer) under this system they would pay no tax at all.

        Absolutely right. But businesses already don't pay taxes, and they never have. They collect taxes and pass the money on to the government. All taxes levied on businesses are built into the prices of products and paid by customers. Essentially we pay federal sales tax already, we just don't call it that and we don't know how much it is.
    • Your idea is interesting, but not as easily implemented as you make it seem, IMHO.

      For example, IIRC, there's a section on the tax forms that legally blind people don't have to pay any taxes. Would you mandate, then, that legally blind people carry ID cards making them exempt from the sales tax? Would this get abused by their friends having them buy the expensive items to save the tax money?

      Also, there's different tax rates for varying children. A family w/ no kids pays more tax than a family w/ 2 kid

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 05, 2004 @01:08AM (#8766299)
    People talk about "privacy," etc., but they never discuss the real reason this kind of thing is tyranny. The problem is, that even by the IRS' own estimates, something like 10-20% of the US population makes their living either partially or entirely "under the table."

    Most Slashdotters are probably not familiar with this -- they probably work directly or indirectly for large institutions, where everything is above board. But in industries like construction, home maintenance, food service, agriculture, or entertainment/film, a substantial chunk of the business is off the books. At the corporate level, this is all hidden by a neverending network of subcontractors, but when you get to the bottom of the barrel it stinks.

    For example, a roofing contractor might have 8 guys working off the books for every 2 that are on, and he just pays them out of his own pocket. Who would know a particular job didn't just take 2 really efficient guys? Restaurants always have illegal dishwashers, etc., paid the same way. Not to mention waitstaff, who work mainly for tips anyway, and may or may not be on the books at all. Again, who would know, unless they walked in the door and asked for everyone's papers? Anyone starting out in Hollywood knows how "dirty" the film business is -- no one but the best paid union employees are working above board. If they're not working under the table on the film set, it's at their side jobs waiting tables, catering/bartending at fancy parties, or working as someone's driver, personal assistant, etc. Those under the table side jobs are what enable them to pursue their real careers. And I'm not talking about actors either, but cameramen, makeup artists, etc.

    Then there are housepainters, gardeners, handymen, etc. Ever go into a bank just before closing, and see the line of blue collar guys waiting to cash the day's paycheck(s)? Ever wonder why these guys have accounts at all the major banks? (So they can cash their checks for free.) Ever wonder why "check cashing" places are so plentiful in blue collar neighborhoods? It isn't because so many people are behind on their bills!

    Most of these people would like to be running a "legitimate" business, but the market often doesn't allow it. They either work under the table, or they don't work at all. Or they get a job at Target or Wal-Mart and starve. That's reality. Sometimes even the very best tradesmen in town are living this way. Don't ask, don't tell! As long as the work gets done, which is a hassle with contractors anyway. No one dares rock the boat.

    The thing is -- when everyone's technically a criminal, whom do you decide to prosecute? Leona Helmsley, or your pool man? Tyco executives, or a single mom waitress? A Hollywood exec's overpaid personal assistant, or your hardworking gardener? Whom do you dislike the most? Who's the easiest pickins? It's like an extreme version of the 55mph speed limit -- when everyone's speeding, who do you pull over?

    Therein lies the tyranny!
  • by Halvard (102061) on Monday April 05, 2004 @08:59AM (#8768097)

    ....this is still the IRS of Richard Nixon (audits to punish people on different sides of political issues); FBI of J. Edgar Hoover (illegal wiretaps, illegal search and seizures, illegal survellience, and blackmail or important figures); FBI of Ruby Ridge, et al; and FISA courts of G. W. Bush (use of "national security" courts in violation of the laws surrounding their creation against US citizens in order to avoid producing evidence or allowing the defendent to confront the acuccuser). Oh, yes, and the Justice Department of the Bush Administration that likes suspending portions of the Bill of Rights because due process interferes with with the outcome (Patriot Act, etc.).

    And in case you couldn't tell, this was intended to be flamebait just like Rush Limbaugh, Jay Severin, Sean Hannity, and that ex-one term Republican congressman from Florida "Sleepy" on MSNBC who looks like he needs some strong coffee and is asleep. Now, if I could only get some liberal flamebaiter like Al Franken on the radio, the noice would be a little more even.

Nobody said computers were going to be polite.

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