Joseph M. Gusmano

Monday, September 26, 2005
Tuesday, May 27, 2003
Thankfully, the man who was fasting for answers from the IRS quit fasting on Sunday. I hope he recovers fully. Now back to our regular programming.
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
I was previously unaware that a provision in the TEACH Act of 2002 required the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to prepare a report on technology to protect digitized copyrighted works. Press release here, report here. The Act amends the copyright laws to allow copyrighted works to be used in digital distance education under certain circumstances. In exchange the educational institutions must employ means to prevent the copyrighted works from being retained and copied by the students. The report surveys the private sector availability of those means, and is a pretty comprehensive list of players in the field of digital rights management (DRM). What surprises me is that the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property was tasked with the report and not the Register of Copyrights.
I have been assiduously avoiding anything political in my postings, whether here or on the weblogs. This is a weblog too but I don't treat it like one. But I am just riveted to this weblog from a man who purports to be starving himself to death unless the IRS tells him (1) what statute requires him to pay income taxes, and (2) how a mandatory income tax can be considered voluntary. It occurs to me as I am writing that I really don't know it is on the up and up, but somehow I feel that it is. Anyone who cares to verify it or debunk it for me, go right ahead. It does not make it any more or less thought provoking.

I suppose part of my fascination is from the fact that this man is my age. Anyway, we get calls at my office from time to time from people with these very same two questions. For what it is worth, this is what I tell them:

1. The IRS cannot find the statute that says you have to pay income taxes because it is not there. Everyone knows it is not there, it is not a big secret conspiracy. What is there is a number of statutes that penalize the taxpayer for failing to file a return, or failing to pay the tax liability. You cannot find the law that says you must stop at a red light either. It is not there. What is there is a law that imposes a penalty on the person who fails to stop at a red light. The requirement to stop at a red light is inferred from the statute penalizing the failure to stop.

2. Following this analogy, the tax laws comprise a voluntary compliance system the same way red lights do. There is no net that springs up to catch your car when the light turns red. You are free to voluntarily stop or not stop, just as you are voluntarily free to file your return or not file, or pay your taxes or not pay. You accept as a member of the driving public that among the potential consequences of not stopping is getting caught and cited. Among the potential consequences of not filing an income tax return is getting caught and assessed. Withholding is voluntary as well, just ask the people who claim 27 exemptions on their W-4 form.

Since I never seem to get through to the people who ask these questions, I won't try to in this case.
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