APRIL 15: THE TRUTH BEHIND THE TOP TAX PRINCIPLES
1. “No taxation without representation” was a major rallying cry of the American Revolution—Well yes, but after two centuries of experience, we realize that taxation with representation is not much of an improvement.
2. One is innocent until proven guilty— When it comes to tax law, a citizen is guilty until proven innocent. This is actually embedded in the Internal Revenue Code. When it comes to taxes, our system of jurisprudence is like the old Soviet system, without the charm.
3. “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society”—Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Two ways of looking at this. Taxes go back to ancient times. See the Code of Hammurabi. Also included in that Code are provisions to cut off a doctor’s hand if he makes a mistake on the operating table, cutting off a slave’s ear if he proclaims he is not a slave to his master, and taking out an eye of a person who has harmed another’s eye (“An eye for an eye”). Hardly seems civilized…this is the price Babylonians paid? Second way of looking at this: On the news tonight were items re terrorist threats, domestic gun violence, and the Khardashians. The price for a civilized society? Can I see what I get for a reduced rate?
4. “There is nothing certain but death and taxes”-- Ben Franklin. The saying is grossly unfair to death. By the way, have you ever been subject to an IRS audit? There is nothing certain about taxes. It is what the IRS agent feels like it should be.
5. “Only the poor pay taxes”—Leona Helmsley. Actually, this one is true. The well-to-do can afford high priced expertise so that their effective tax rates are lower than those at the bottom of the economic spectrum.
6. BONUS POINT—“If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”—Jesus. I am a God-fearing person and a regular church goer, but I have to quibble here. Jesus, have you ever been through an audit? These tax collectors hate everyone. Jesus!
Kenneth T. Zemsky is the author of the recently published novel The Nation’s Hope, about the 1965 NYC mayoral campaign. He is also a managing director at AndersenTax and teaches constitutional law at Rutgers. You can follow him at KennethTZemsky.com.