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Anonymous Newspaper Commenters Subpoenaed In Tax Case 394

Posted by Soulskill
from the somebody-point-these-lawyers-at-youtube dept.
skuzzlebutt writes "In a federal tax case reported in the Las Vegas Review Journal last week, a local businessman has been paying his employees in gold coins instead of cash or ACH, and has reportedly told them that they can only be taxed on the face value of the coinage — not the much higher market value of the metal. The United States disagreed, and brought him up on 57 counts of income tax evasion, tax fraud and criminal conspiracy. The non-authenticated comments section of the original article brought a lot of supporters out of the woodwork, including a few who thought the jury should be hung (literally, procedurally, or figuratively ... pick one). In response, the prosecution has subpoenaed the names of the anonymous commenters, citing fears of jury safety. Or something. The obvious questions of privacy and protected speech aside, for the folks that support the defendant (the newspaper is fighting the subpoena), this also brings back into the spotlight the troll-empowering nature of pseudo-anonymous, non-authenticated boards. If they want to find you, they will; is anonymous commenting still worth it, or is it just too risky for the board owners?"
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Anonymous Newspaper Commenters Subpoenaed In Tax Case

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @08:53AM (#28360313)

    ..what a terrible summary

    • by cml4524 (1520403) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @08:57AM (#28360353)

      True, but I don't understand why this is such a big deal. You could never mail anonymous letters threatening people without triggering an investigation, why do people think that when they go online they can threaten people and not suffer consequences?

      • by GeorgeStone22 (1532191) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:02AM (#28360411)
        Because they can? I mean seriously, how often does someone actually get called out on abuse over the internet. If I go to someones blogspot and tell them I want to kill them. There will be no action taken. It's not worth the effort and it's an empty threat like 99.99999% of threats on the internet. On the internet your average 120lb nerd can be a 300lb UFC fighting bear wrangler.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:09AM (#28360485)

        Apparently they want the identities of all submitters of comments on that article. Not just the ones who made threats (going from the vague to the hyperbole).

        It's actually a chilling effect. One day you are commenting on a newspaper article (without making threats), the next day your name and address pop up on some prosecutors desk while he is investigating another commenter on the same article.

      • by Quothz (683368) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:15AM (#28360529) Journal

        True, but I don't understand why this is such a big deal. You could never mail anonymous letters threatening people without triggering an investigation, why do people think that when they go online they can threaten people and not suffer consequences?

        That was my first thought, as well: The freedom to speak anonymously isn't freedom to make anonymous threats. However, I disagree that anyone was threatening the jury here. There's a huge gap between "they ought to" hurt someone and "I'm going to" hurt someone. If I say that George W. Bush should be tarred, feathered, and ridden out of the country on rails, that's not the same as threatening to assault him.

      • by TapeCutter (624760) * on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:18AM (#28360549) Journal
        Sending someone a snail mail death threat implies you know who they are and where they live. Going to the trouble of a physical cut and paste from magazines implies you are willing to expend time and effort on your threat.
        • by sumdumass (711423) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @10:51AM (#28361551) Journal

          It's deeper then that. It's that we have to protect the people we force to do the dirty work for us against any reasonable threat. We have long recognized the necessity of investigating any threat to see if it was some blowhard letting steam out or someone capable of committing harm. It doesn't help that the names and addresses of Jurors are generally publicly availible too.

          It might be a different story if it was an all volunteer process but it isn't. If you register to vote, you are automatically placed into the jury pool and you can't get out of service easily. I generally claim I support jury nullification and don't have to sit on a trial, but others don't pull stunts like that so they are stuck with the jury duty as a result of expecting to have a voice in their community, state, and country with the right to vote.

  • Constitution (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "No State shall [...] make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts [...]"
    --Article 1, Section 10 of the United States Constitution

    Federal Reserve Notes are nothing but counterfeit money.

  • Yes. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @08:55AM (#28360335)
    Anonymous commenting is no longer worth the effort.

    AC OUT!
  • Threats (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JPLemme (106723) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:04AM (#28360433)
    I don't trust the government to protect my rights, but in this case they may have a point. Threatening people with bodily harm is illegal, and freedom of speech is not a valid defense. If you choose to break the law, then you're giving the cops permission to hunt you down and prosecute you, "anonymous" or not. (Even if the law is a bad one and the cops are thugs controlled by a petty dictator.) (Iran, et al.) Which doesn't mean that I think anonymity is bad; I just think that you should learn a little bit about the law and about search warrants and about technology before you start your life of crime. (True anonymity is necessary to defend freedom, even if it means a thousand Cletuses and Bubbas can use it, too.)
    • Re:Threats (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sakdoctor (1087155) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:27AM (#28360633) Homepage

      I don't trust the government to protect my rights

      Neither do I.
      Problem is, many people see governments as the source of rights; so it's an uphill struggle right from the start.

    • Re:Threats (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jackb_guppy (204733) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:30AM (#28360655)

      They do not have point of asking for ALL information of EVERY ONE that posted. This includes Credit Card Numbers, ISP, and Addresses for every poster.

      If they tailored request to those few (I read three) that actually crossed the line into threatening, then it is what you say.

      I believe it is the over reach that is why ACLU and Review are both fighting for anonymity of their posters.

      It is also a pleasure to a media outlet that lives by the 1st Amendment to support their reader 1st Amendment rights. -- Do you hear that NBC, FOX and others that force user give up those rights to respond to articles.

      • Re:Threats (Score:5, Informative)

        by Curunir_wolf (588405) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @10:07AM (#28361055) Homepage Journal

        They do not have point of asking for ALL information of EVERY ONE that posted. This includes Credit Card Numbers, ISP, and Addresses for every poster.

        If they tailored request to those few (I read three) that actually crossed the line into threatening, then it is what you say.

        I guess the prosecutors eventually got that exact message, because they have now narrowed the subpoena to just two posters [lvrj.com].

        I don't really disagree with your point, but in this case it's just William Cohan once again being a complete tool. He'd go after your grandmother for assault on a public official if she complained about a tax bill. He's been going after Robert Kahre for years, this isn't the first time. This latest round reeks of vindictiveness over having his case completely thrown out the last time he tried it.

        Here's [lvrj.com] a little more background if you're interested.

    • by Tanktalus (794810)

      (Even if the law is a bad one and the cops are thugs controlled by a petty dictator.) (Iran, et al.)

      Right up to that "Iran" bit, I thought you were talking about North America, and referring to union bosses.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      RTFA.

      The feds are going after everyone who posted anonymously, not just anonymous posters who made comments that might be threatening (or might only be juvenile hyperbole).

      A much more targeted subpoena could have been easily drafted, demanding information on only on a list of the anonymous posts that could be construed in some way as threatening. That was not done; the subpoena is not properly focused. The only obvious reason for constructing the subpoena this way is to use it as a threat to silent publi

  • by spyrochaete (707033) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:05AM (#28360443) Homepage Journal

    I believe that in the (implied, non-existant) Internet charter of rights anonymity is a basic human right. I believe in opt-in, not opt-out. A webmaster has a sacred trust that he will guard his users' IP addresses and only leverage them for internal use, if at all. Besides, that IP address could have been used by the subscriber, a child, a wardriver, a cheapskate nextdoor neighbour, or an entirely different household if the ISP made a mistake in their logs.

    On my blog I allow anonymous comments and I wrote "(optional)" next to the email and WWW fields on the comment submit form. I get TONS more spam because of this, but that's a service I feel is essential to my readers and integral to the fabric of the web.

    If the government fears how people react to facts then maybe they should outlaw news media.

    • by sycodon (149926)

      And should they have been prosecuted? They formented a war ya know.

      Publius, Pacificus, Cattalus, Horatius and Philo Camillus, Silence Dogood, Alice Addertongue, Fanny Mournful, Obadiah Plainman, Busy Body, Populus, An American, A Son of Liberty ,"Vindex the Avenger".

      • "And should they have been prosecuted? They formented a war ya know."

        Good question. After the bushfires here in Australia there was an opinion columnist in the Sydney Morning Hearald calling for greens to be hung from lamposts [abc.net.au] and even went so far as to use the Green parties emblem. Even though she clearly broke our sedition laws I don't think the hatefull bitch should be prosecuted but I do think the SMH and the mass-media in general should disown her and her kind [cfsmtb.net](NSFW).
      • Scott Roeder

    • W T F ????

      So the ability to make threats or derogatory comments without having to take responsibility is a basic human right?

      When does responsibility for ones actions apply? Or is it a basic human right not be responsible for what one does or says? Or is that only when the subject agreed upon is mutually acceptable for ostracism?

  • The judge should look at each comment individually as well as holistically against other comments apparently by the same commenter.

    If the comments appear to be a credible and actual threat against a juror, as opposed to someone blowing off steam, making non-credible threats, or just blowing off steam, then it's worth a closer look.

    To determine if unauthenticated comments apparently made by the same commenter are made by the same commenter I would order the newspaper to provide a statement saying the comment

  • by DoofusOfDeath (636671) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:07AM (#28360463)

    Does anyone know why forum administrators even bother keeping around enough information to reveal the identity of an anonymous poster?

    I mean, I can see keeping around the web server logs for a day or two, to help debug problems. And if you do analytics, keeping the logs around long enough for the analytics software to compute aggregate data.

    But why keep any data longer than that; especially data that's detailed enough to tie an IP# to a posted message?

    • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:18AM (#28360557)
      ...Because most forum admins know next to nothing about computers other than "type this and it sets up a bulletin board!!!"?
    • by iceperson (582205)
      Most forum admins record the IP of posters to ban spammers and/or abusive posters.
    • I'll bite on this (Score:5, Informative)

      by phorm (591458) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @10:03AM (#28361017) Journal

      Since I previously worked in a company that's primary business was in running (and selling advertising on) web-forums, I suppose I'd be as qualified as anyone to answer this:

      a) The default behaviour of the software is to record IP addresses. It's not like most companies are building their own, they're using something like vBulletin, IPB, or possibly PHPBB. I'm not even sure if this is a feature that could be disabled without a plugin/hack

      b) Basic security is tied to IP. Just as does slashdot, so do other forums get their share of trolls. You actually don't see it a lot here, but penis-enlargement, pr0n, scams and spam are also fairly common. The IP address is your only semi-reliable link to a real person, in which case you can block certain IP's or netblocks that become an issue, track down users with multiple accounts. I do say semi-reliably as IPs can be routed through proxies etc, but many boards actually have RBL's for known proxies

      c) Advertising, which for many boards is the chief (or only) source of revenue, often ties to IP address. Most programs collect statistics by IP, and also other fun stuff like geo-targetting, rotation (so you don't see the same ad a gazillion times in a row), etc

      d) User related to locality can be fairly well-determined by IP. If you've got issues where all your users in the Eastern US connect slowly/poorly, or possibly where you have many users in Western Europe but they have a shit connection, then it may lead you to consider adding services (local server, cache, or whatever) in those areas.

      e) The last thing I can think of off the top of my head is statistics, which are also very important to many web-boards to see where they're growing and where they need improvement.

      And yes, these work fairly well for 95% of the John-Doe users. Most people, even those who consider themselves clever, don't make much use of proxies or other such things to post secretly on boards, which allows the wheat to be filtered from the chaff fairly well based on IP. Until a better method comes along, it's probably the best way.

      p.s. Don't use my own board as an example of something spam-proof. It's using different software than I used at work, gets very little time dedicated to it, and the spam-collection is actually something of interest while I try to come up with fun methods of dealing with the spammers.

  • by Rockoon (1252108) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:08AM (#28360469)
    So on the one hand we take Gold Coins and use the Ore Value, while on the other we take Quarters and use the Face Value.

    So lets say I take my pay check and head off to the bank and when cashing it, get a roll of pennies. Further suppose that one these pennies has some rare quality making it worth $100 to a collector... is that an extra $100 of Income?
    • by leonardluen (211265) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:16AM (#28360537)

      If you sold it to the collector for $100 it indeed would be an additional $99.99 income.

      • by Rockoon (1252108) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:26AM (#28360629)
        Certainly in the scenerio where I actualy sell, the onus is on me to report income.

        If I don't sell, however... its just face value, right?

        In this story they go after the employer, regardless of the actions of the employees.

        This is a very complicated subject that begs a lot of questions. Can my bank post a $100 loss for their mistake in giving me a $100 penny? Can they post a $100 win if they hand me a counterfeit $100?
        • by twostix (1277166) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:49AM (#28360871)

          What they're terrified of is people going back to hard currency.

          He's being made an example of, it's that simple.

          It's a loophole that's protected by the US constitution. Gold and Silver are protected as legal currency and the federal government must supply and accept gold and silver tender. The only way around it is to amend the constitution - or scare people enough not to do it.

          If it became popular may also get people asking difficult questions like why a $30 coin is really worth $1000, or more to the point why a $1 federal reserve note can only buy 1% of the value of a $30 dollar coin.

          Such things are best not thought about by the plebs.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Abcd1234 (188840)

            If it became popular may also get people asking difficult questions like why a $30 coin is really worth $1000, or more to the point why a $1 federal reserve note can only buy 1% of the value of a $30 dollar coin.

            Back in the day, American Indian's used a form of currency called Wampum. So, what was it? Valuable metal? Nope. Useful stones? Nope. Anything functional or "intrinsically" valuable at all? Heck no. It was *seashells*, strung like beads and worn around the neck, valuable only because the man

          • It's a loophole that's protected by the US constitution. Gold and Silver are protected as legal currency and the federal government must supply and accept gold and silver tender.

            You know, you'd look less of a fool if you actually read the Constitution. The individual *states* are prohibited from making anything other than gold and silver coin legal tender. No such limitation is laid on the federal government.

            • He never said anything about other metals. I think you're reading the wrong inference from the word "protected". He wasn't claiming an exclusivity protection.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Cyner (267154)
            They don't have to accept gold and silver. That part of the Constitution [usconstitution.net] you refer to is Article I, Section 10 and says that States can't make anything currency except gold and silver (all other money is reserved to the Federal Government, hence the Federal Mints); nothing about what the government has to accept.

            What you're thinking of is that the dollar bill used to be backed by gold. Other nations could at any time they wanted trade money for gold (and vice versa) with the US government. The Smithsoni [wikipedia.org]
          • by LordActon (930340) <jklowden@schemama n i a . org> on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @11:14AM (#28361847)

            What they're terrified of is people going back to hard currency.

            Terrified? Please. I suppose they're also terrified of all those Econ 101 students learning about what money is, what the value of an exchange is, what value is. Oh, no, I forgot: that's the indoctrination that keeps six billion people in the Matrix. Except for a few laser-eyed gold bugs, that is.

            The IRS collects tax on income. Lots of in-kind income is taxable just like cash. It should be, else non-cash income would have a tax advantage, and the whole economy would be encouraged to seek less efficient forms of payment. If you think that's a good idea, talk to my friend who, in Soviet days, got paid in shoes.

            Really, it's too bad your comment can't be scored +1 ignorant. Try learning some economics before having an opinion on it. Or at least have the humility not to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by DragonWriter (970822)

            Gold and Silver are protected as legal currency

            No, they aren't. States are expressly forbidden from making anything else legal tender for debts, but Congress is expressly granted the exclusive power to create money, and to regulate the value of all forms of money.

            and the federal government must supply and accept gold and silver tender.

            Nothing anywhere in the Constitution either requires the government to supply gold or silver coins as money, or to accept it as tender. Arguably, states are permitted to make

        • by rhsanborn (773855)
          I'll leave this to the courts, but the issue has less to do with accidentally stumbling on a fortune like that, which you are obligated to claim in taxes if you sell. It has more to do with this individual taking these actions deliberately for the sake of tax evasion. It's not much different than paying one's employees in cash and not claiming it, except in this case he thinks he's clever and found a legal way to do exactly that. I suspect intent will be very important in this case.
        • If the employer is encouraging the employees to sell the coins for the value of the metal then I would say that yes he is responsible. He set up a BUSINESS of paying people with this system. Not just his employees, but also outside contracting agencies.

        • If I don't sell, however... its just face value, right?

          Per the fine article, they did sell. They took the gold coins and immediately turned them around for their value as precious metal (or as collector's items, but either way it's the same). They made substantially more than the face value. Accordingly, they owe tax on the actual value.

          Your example is interesting, but it's not the situation actually being discussed here.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          You should read the story.

          "He also allowed workers to immediately exchange the coins for paper currency, as determined by the coins' investment value."

          Can't post a loss for something that wasn't accounted. Handing you 100 dollar counterfeit comes under a loss for them.

          Of course your scenarios are really tiny edge cases. Not really worth any practical value becasue in all the case both parties of the transaction are ignorant of what happened.

          The go after the emploer becasue he was intentional committing a cr

    • Further suppose that one these pennies has some rare quality making it worth $100 to a collector... is that an extra $100 of Income?

      If you sold it to a collector for that $100, it most certainly would be. I'm little fuzzier on what it would be if you hung on to it, but I think the answer is probably yes.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by db32 (862117)
      To me the whole thing seems pretty simple. He is paying employees with gold coins and trying to say they can only be taxed at face value. So if I write $5 on a brand new jet that I want to "donate" to a congress person should it only be declared as $5? That is f'ing stupid. These gold coins are not legal U.S. currency, so they should be treated at their value. Your quarter is worth that much because the government said so. In fact, this has been a problem in the past when certain metals in certain coi
    • The problem is that he was only doing reporting and withholding on the face value. Since he was probably buying the coins over face value, that's fraud.
    • by itsdapead (734413)

      So on the one hand we take Gold Coins and use the Ore Value, while on the other we take Quarters and use the Face Value.

      No: in both cases you take an honest and reasonable appraisal of the value of the object in question. For a regular quarter, however many bizarre and unlikely scenarios you contrive, the only honest and reasonable valuation is 25c. For a bullion coin, the honest and reasonable valuation is the metal value + any rarity value - no reasonable person would use a solid gold dollar to settle a $1 debt. Different things are worth different amounts - film at 11!

      is that an extra $100 of Income?

      Yes - you got lucky, but its still income, even if 99%

  • YES! (Score:3, Funny)

    by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:08AM (#28360473)
    ...is anonymous commenting still worth it, or is it just too risky for the board owners?

    Absolutely!

    Posting AC so they don't find out who I am.
  • Face value (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kimvette (919543) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:15AM (#28360523) Homepage Journal

    Further, the $50 gold coins and the silver dollars Kahre used for payroll are designated by Congress as legal tender, so people are entitled to value them at their stamped denominations, he also contends. Taken at face value, each defendant's annual coin income placed him below the threshold for filing a federal tax return.

    Both the IRS and Kahre are in the wrong here.

    The Government is required by LAW to recognize American currency at face value. They have no choice in the matter. The government's isregarding face value of "legal tender for all debts, public and private" is illegal. The government issued that currency (or authorised its issuance) for the face value and require it to be accepted as such so they have no legal choice but to accept it for the value they declared it to be.

    However, if he wants to play the "face value" defense, which is legitimate (he should win that case) what he should be charged with is violating the federal minimum wage laws, not tax evasion.

    What he and his employees engage in is tax avoidance, which is perfectly legal. Tax avoidance is simply following the letter of the law and avoiding the incurring tax liability. Practically every politician engages in avoidance. Things such as claiming one's standard exemption, creating a shell company and having it lease one's vehicle for business purposes, and so forth. If I ever make the kind of money where it makes sense to do so, you bet your ass I would hire a tax lawyer and take advantage of the law to the my benefit. The tax code is needlessly complex for three things: to keep lawyers busy and make them rich, for social engineering (keep citizens in line by making them accept government control), and to benefit politicians who create hard-to-understand loopholes for their own use.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kimvette (919543)

      "It's not whether what Mr. Kahre did was legal under the law," defense attorney Michael Kennedy told the jury in his opening statement. "It's whether he believed what he did was legal," in the absence of explicit instructions by the IRS -- on its Web site, in its publications or in response to written correspondence from Kahre -- on how to value post-1985 gold or silver coins.

      Rephrased, what Kennedy is saying is this: "It's not whether it's legal or not, it's whether we want to fuck the taxpayer or not."

      • by teg (97890)

        Rephrased, what Kennedy is saying is this: "It's not whether it's legal or not, it's whether we want to fuck the taxpayer or not."

        Actually, Kennedy is the defense attorney - not the (justified IMNSHO) IRS lawyer. Kennedy is saying "it's not whether it's tax fraud or not, it's whether he thought he could get away with or not".

    • by davidwr (791652) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:32AM (#28360677) Homepage Journal

      What this guy did was essentially barter gold bullion that happened to be in coin form for labor.

      Even if the US government is required to trade a $20 bill for your $20 gold piece, that does not establish the value of the gold piece for tax purposes.

      Even a $20 bill can be worth more than $20 if it's a collector's item, such as one that's in an uncut block, one that's old and still in original condition, one that's very old, or one that's been autographed by hand by the Treasurer of the United States or Secretary of the Treasury whose signature appears on the bill.

      If I pay my employees in collector-value currency, you bet the IRS will consider it a barter-for-labor arrangement and tax accordingly.

      • Even if the US government is required to trade a $20 bill for your $20 gold piece, that does not establish the value of the gold piece for tax purposes.

        As mentioned by a poster somewhere upthread, it would make more sense to tax the actual value of the coin when and if the employee sells it as bullion.

        In the mean time, as the GP suggested, the guy may be (probably is) in violation of minimum wage laws (unless he wants to say he's bartering with the coins as gold rather than at their face value, in which cas

      • But in this case there's no allegation these are collectible coins, they are still in circulation.

        So if the price of nickel or copper were to shoot up, would you owe more in taxes if you were paid with those denomination coins than in bills?

      • The IRS taxes all wages and other forms of compensation based on the fair market value of the items or services provided to the employee. From the IRS website:

        Wages not paid in money. If in the course of your trade or business you pay your employees in a medium that is neither cash nor a readily negotiable instrument, such as a check, you are said to pay them "in kind." Payments in kind may be in the form of goods, lodging, food, clothing, or services. Generally, the fair market value of such payments at

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Greger47 (516305)

      The Government is required by LAW to recognize American currency at face value. They have no choice in the matter. The government's isregarding face value of "legal tender for all debts, public and private" is illegal. The government issued that currency (or authorised its issuance) for the face value and require it to be accepted as such so they have no legal choice but to accept it for the value they declared it to be.

      If I pay someone with a $20 bill and a lump of gold and then try to make the case that t

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by twostix (1277166)

        No if you're paid with $20 in government currency then as far as the government is concerned you received $20 in wealth.

        Otherwise it works the other way too and this $100 dollar paper note is only "worth" 1 cent and should be taxed as such.

        Oh that's right, for some insane reason people always come down on the side of the government.

        Perhaps you should ask *why* the government is stamping $30 on legal tender that actually costs 1000 $1 federal reserve notes (and counting). These gold coins are not "special"

    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      That would be true if we were all a bunch of mindless zombies and the law was a completely clear and undebatable codex that needed no real-world interpretation. In the REAL world common sense can, does, and should play a role in the law and its interpretation. This sort of "letter of the law" mentality is what leads to stupid shit like kids getting expelled from school for bringing plastic knives in with their lunch (because TECHNICALLY they did indeed "bring a knife to school"). What it comes down to this
      • That would be true if we were all a bunch of mindless zombies and the law was a completely clear and undebatable codex that needed no real-world interpretation. In the REAL world common sense can, does, and should play a role in the law and its interpretation. This sort of "letter of the law" mentality is what leads to stupid shit like kids getting expelled from school for bringing plastic knives in with their lunch (because TECHNICALLY they did indeed "bring a knife to school"). What it comes down to this case isn't "Was he technically following the exact letter of the law?" It comes down to "Would a jury of reasonable peers conclude that this man was willfully engaging in tax evasion?" And I think it's clear that the answer to the latter question is, in the mind of anything resembling a reasonable human being, a resounding "Yes."

        BZZZZZT! Sorry, massive fail. Tax code is all about the letter of the law. That's why people pay tax accountants and tax attorneys all the time to help them find those loopholes. Perfectly accepted behavior of the rich and politicians (although it seems a lot of politicians lately have been trying to use loopholes that really aren't there).

        These guys aren't wealthy or powerful politicians - they are working people that found a loophole for themselves. I applaud them for it. This is more like a case o

    • American workers are taxed on the dollar value of their earnings - this is typically payment in cash, but if you receive non-monetary compensation as part of your employment, you're still responsible for paying taxes on the dollar value of that compensation. The value of the gold coinage was far higher than the currency face value - which was the whole point of giving it instead of normal greenbacks or a check.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by vlm (69642)

        American workers are taxed on the dollar value of their earnings - this is typically payment in cash, but if you receive non-monetary compensation as part of your employment, you're still responsible for paying taxes on the dollar value of that compensation.

        Which was the subject of not one, but two recent slashdot stories where the IRS would enjoy taxing individuals for their portion of company provided cell phone service used for personal use, non-monetary compensation.

        Also there is ample tax case law about unusually low valued "gifts" to avoid gift and inheritance taxes. The dude is either liable for violating minimum wage laws, or not paying gift taxes, or is falsifying his financial documents. How he accounts for buying 1 oz gold coins for $1000 and payi

    • The Government is required by LAW to recognize American currency at face value.

      Only paper money is "legal tender for all debts, public and private".

      Coinage is different, under a different set of laws.

  • by twostix (1277166) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:20AM (#28360573)

    "Reportedly told them that they can only be taxed on the face value of the coinage -- not the much higher market value of the metal"

    The money paid is 100% legal United States Currency, minted by the United States Government itself.

    The US constitution specifically states that gold an silver are legal tender.

    What's the problem? It's not his problem that the US government has destroyed the value of money so that "old" but perfectly legal currency is now worth 1000 times more than it's equivalent "new" money...IF the government doesn't like it they need to change the law and outlaw the gold coins that they mint as legal tender.

    Otherwise he's being prosecuted for something that "feels" illegal, which is a deadly slippery slope to go down.

    • The US constitution specifically states that gold an silver are legal tender.

      [citation needed]

      • by vlm (69642)

        The US constitution specifically states that gold an silver are legal tender.

        [citation needed]

        Article one, section ten, clause one (aka the contracts clause) "No State shall enter into" (long list of naughtyness) "make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts;"

    • by brusk (135896) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:48AM (#28360859)

      No, he's clearly paying his employees based on the market value of the coins, not the face value.

      Imagine I paid my employees with one dollar bills signed by Jesus, Buddha, and Abe Lincoln. Clearly these would fetch a high price on the autograph market, significantly above $1 (yeah, I know, you're not supposed to mutilate currency). I think the IRS would be perfectly justified in treating these as having a worth above their face value, since any reasonable person would recognize that they are not just an ordinary dollar bill.

      He's being prosecuted not for paying his employees in gold, which is perfectly fine (if dumb), but for lying about its value, which is against the law.

      • It's actually a federal offence to deface US currency.

        TITLE 18 - CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE
        PART I - CRIMES
        CHAPTER 17 - COINS AND CURRENCY
        333. Mutilation of national bank obligations

        Whoever mutilates, cuts, defaces, disfigures, or perforates, or unites or cements together, or does any other thing to any bank bill, draft, note, or other evidence of debt issued by any national banking association, or Federal Reserve bank, or the Federal Reserve System, with intent to render such bank bill, draf
    • RTFA first (Score:3, Insightful)

      by freedom_india (780002)

      The money is printed by the Federal Reserve and NOT by the Federal Government. Sheesh, don't you know the difference?
      It is legal tender for all debts.
      The IRS is NOT prosecuting him for paying in Gold. The IRS doesn't care how you pay someone. Gold, Silver, mud, iron, hell in Nevada even Sex.
      What it cares about is its value in USD.
      In this case this guy paid in Gold, whose real value is more than what its face value states.
      RTFA and research before you open your pie hole.

      • Right. Unless he had a huge cache of old coins, he was buying the coins at over face value, paying them to employees, then reporting and withholding based on face value. That's tax fraud.

        If an old guy had a kid mow his lawn for $20, then paid the kid in a $20 gold piece, the kid would only have to report $20 of income until he sold the coin, then report the difference as income. If the kid uses the coin to buy $20 worth of merchandise, he's ok, it's up the the next guy to sell the coin at a profit and
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by DavidTC (10147)

      IF the government doesn't like it they need to change the law and outlaw the gold coins that they mint as legal tender.

      Actually, they needed to not change the law. For a while, this would, indeed, be illegal, as private ownership of gold bullion was illegal. They not only changed the law, they started making gold coins again.

      And, indeed. I don't care what the IRS says. If the government prints $10 on a coin, and issues it, WRT the government it's worth ten dollars, period. If the government doesn't like

  • by 91degrees (207121) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:20AM (#28360579) Journal
    So, they can avoid income tax on 99% of their income by being paid in $1000 worth of coins with a total face value of $10. That makes sense.

    Surely then, should they choose to sell these they'll pay income tax on any profit they make. If they use them as legal tender, they'll only be able to use the face value. I suppose they might be able to haggle the price of a large purchase down a little but for everyday spending it seems the savings are small.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Faerunner (1077423)
      I'm not even sure most places will accept gold coins as legal tender; not that they're not legal, but the cashiers and managers have rarely seen one and will become suspicious if someone tries to pay for their loaf of bread with a couple of Sacajawea dollars, let alone higher denomination coins. (I know; I've tried.) I imagine having an entire company's worth of employees come into your store and attempt to buy snacks with $20 gold coins would be enough to warrant a call to the authorities by a nervous mana
    • by Ogive17 (691899)
      That's the same way I look at it. Either you use the gold coins at face value and don't pay tax on them, or you sell the gold coins at a profit and must claim that 'investment' income on your year end taxes.

      Maybe you keep bartering that gold coin for goods/services worth the approximate value of the gold in the coin, but it seems that eventually someone would cash it out and have to pay taxes on that...
    • by vlm (69642)

      Surely then, should they choose to sell these they'll pay income tax on any profit they make.

      Not necessarily. For example, there is no law that I can't buy a laptop "worth" $1000 from someone for $10 (assuming they're not fencing stolen goods, etc, etc)

      That kind of stupidity happens all the time at yard sales, where "ugly old painting" is bought for $10 by someone whom recognizes it as an original Van Gogh or whatever. Somebody buys a worthless old postcard from paris for 50 cents because they have special knowledge that the cancelled rare stamp is worth 50 bucks but the seller has no idea. That

  • by mdmkolbe (944892) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @09:23AM (#28360595)

    If the logs aren't there, the subpoena doesn't hurt anything. So I ask what sort of logs does slashdot keep that could conceivably be used to track down an AC? Be imaginative in your answers (e.g. someone could try matching the HTTP access logs against the time the comment was posted(*)). Think like a smart technical cop who really wants to figure this out.

    (*) There are probably too many accesses in a single minute to determine that reliably, but it may give you a candidate list that you could then correlate with other data. Like I said, be imaginative.

    • by scottv67 (731709)
      >If the logs aren't there, the subpoena doesn't hurt anything. So I ask what sort of logs does slashdot keep that could conceivably be used to track down an AC? Be imaginative in your answers (e.g. someone could try matching the HTTP access logs against the time the comment was posted(*)). Think like a smart technical cop who really wants to figure this out.

      Why even make it that complex? Who's to say that there isn't a field in database row 28360595 that contains the IP address of the system used to
  • If they want to find you, they will;

    Try that with someone posting trough an anonymizing non-logging proxy that self-destroys as soon as its surrounding force fields change even a bit. :P
    (Ok, in reality someone switching it off, removing/addingg hardware or logging in (honeypot anyway), is enough. But even my little linux server here can do this.)

    A classic case of lack of imagination. ;)

  • Sheesh. Why a whole article? This is not a difficult question.

    Anonymous comments are a great choice for speech that is legal, but might expose a public speaker to social consequences: reviews, dark humor, political criticism, whistleblowing, etc.

    Anonymous comments should not be a shield for speech that is an illegal attack on others: libel, threats, intimidation, etc. If you want to say that kind of stuff, be prepared to own up to it.

  • by scruffy (29773) on Wednesday June 17, 2009 @10:15AM (#28361139)
    I am surprised at the number of Slashdotters who support tax evasion and violent threats.
  • The chief advantage to this scheme is to hold on to the coins for one year. They then become long-term capital gains, and if these employees are in the 10 or 15% tax brackets then they won't pay any taxes on the sale of the coins after that.

    Of course if they're in the 10 or 15% bracket and this is their only source of income they probably can't afford to wait a year to sell them. C'est la vie ...

  • Tenth Amendment (Score:2, Informative)

    by Icegryphon (715550)
    "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution,
    nor prohibited by it to the States,
    are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

    Just thought the Federal Government should be reminded.

Never say you know a man until you have divided an inheritance with him.

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