Tax season is once again in its twilight hours and there are a legion of individuals who are rushing to get their taxes done before the midnight deadline. In the modern age there are a multitude of ways to do it. You can spend hundreds of dollars at your local tax prep office. Or for a fraction less, download software from the Internet. Yet, despite all of these new millennium methods of giving Uncle Sam his due, there are still millions of people across the country who are doing things the hard way, the United States Postal Service way, the two stamps and a mailbox way. But at least they do it. Unlike those who bring on hundreds of millions in tax fraud and evasion each year. Despite the fact that many believe the IRS is the most feared government agency in America, the idea of evading taxes is as American as apple pie.
In 2008, Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) was convicted on seven counts of bribery and tax evasion prior to election. He lost the election. But his conviction was also vacated when a Justice Department probe found prosecutorial misconduct was at play during his conviction. Last year, the Ernst & Young accounting firm agreed to pay the feds $123 million to settle criminal tax avoidance charges. These charges were from 200 wealthy clients whom four Ernst & Young senior partners advised between 1999 and 2004. In 2008, Charles Rangel (D-NY) failed to report $75,000 in income from his rental properties in the Dominican Republic. He was forced to pay $11,000 and was censured by the House of Representatives with a 333-79 vote.
But what do these individuals have in common? They are among the elite, the top ten percent in this country. They have helped initiate change in the legislative and financial avenues of America both above and below proverbial boards of public notice. As a result, they have never served a day of jail time for their actions.
But there are exceptions to the rule if you swing toward the celebrity side or have less political power. Most of the people who’ve been an example of the jail time exception are of color making the “black” list as long as an octopuses’ arm; Ronald Isley, Lauryn Hill, Ja Rule, Wesley Snipes and Fat Joe, to name a few.
There are some who claim the IRS is often used as a weapon against people who are deemed too vocal or uppity. Like Lauryn Hill, and her music filled with themes of race and remembrance in America. Or Wesley Snipes, a brother who once said after his conviction, "I was convicted of three misdemeanors of willful failure to file a form,: could each be considered vocal and uppity. They both pointed to some hidden law and theory that they don’t have to pay their taxes. It made no sense, didn’t hold up in court, and they went to jail. But their reluctance is understandable.
My great-great grandparents were slaves who worked “for free” most of their lives. Their parents worked “for free” as well. Yet, I am expected to pay taxes to a country that behaves as an absentee landlord when it comes to justice and equality for black people? It’s not right or fair. But still, the government will win, garnish wages when they can, and if unsuccessful, lock my black ass up in the same way Wesley and Lauryn were. You can’t escape the tax man. At least, not for long.
And what about Ja Rule and Ron Isley? Each possesses a wisdom that would be largely lost on all but their most dedicated fans. One could hardly call them revolutionary by any stretch of the imagination. Ron can sure ‘nuff help people procreate. And Ja Rule, in his heyday, could help rock a party. But they did not do so to the point of being subversive in any sense. Why didn’t they pay their taxes? Did they hire inadequate cousins to file paperwork? Did they hope someone else, perhaps the entertainment industry "go-to" accountant, would handle their debts so they could put their heads in a hole when the bills arrive? Or did they continually not open due date envelopes, letting mail pile up on the counter, hoping it’ll just go away?
Could it be because they’re black? No. I can’t fully go with that conspiracy theory either. Although this is a culture issue. Some ethnic minorities, black people specifically, have had stereotypical problems paying taxes and maintaining good credit. It is an argument that has a strong moral and ethical backbone.
Whatever the issues, we are expected to pay taxes. When it comes to newly rich black folks, delusions of grandeur may linger and could be causing a warped sense of power. But when it comes to everyday people of color, it appears to be downright subconsciously taught financial irresponsibility. Uncle Sam always lets us know who can and who cannot thumb their noses at the IRS. And the little man with no power, even ones with the ability to sing, rap, act, or influence people to buy something, will always have to pay one way or another. So do the simple thing, people. Pay your taxes.