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States Link Databases to Find Tax Cheats

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the be-good-for-goodness'-sake dept.

United States 726

The IRS and state revenue agencies are increasingly linking every database they can get to their tax records to find clues about your finances.

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Privacy Issues (5, Interesting)

Liselle (684663) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764892)

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 (4, Interesting)

Frisky070802 (591229) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764914)

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.

Re:Privacy Issues (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8764917)

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.

Re:Privacy Issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8765067)

What you are advocating is not looking at databases that already exist...ummm...ok.

Re:Privacy Issues (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8765124)

right on. This may seem like a good idea and may not seem onerous, but it's only the first step.

A few years ago, my state was setting up an E911 system which databased lots of extra information. People concerned about privacy objected, but they said it would result in better service in the case of an emergency, and promised the information gathered would only be used for E911, never used for anything else. Half a year later, there was a non-911 incident, the result being that all that information is now also available to the police.

Re:Privacy Issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8764922)

Maybe the government should stop "screwing over" taxpayers them by making them pay for 100's of billions of dollars in "black projects" which have no Congressional oversight and are basically unconstitutional. Treat the people with no respect and they'll treat you with no respect. Or vice versa too, which you went on.

Re:Privacy Issues (2, Insightful)

TeraCo (410407) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764943)

So you are saying if the government stops the 'black projects' the tax cheats will pay up?

Well, that's certainly one option, however I'm leaning towards the possibility that they are not paying their taxes because they like money, not because they share your weird ideological views.

Re:Privacy Issues (1)

a whoabot (706122) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765007)

It creates an imbalance in the universal karma-scape. Obviously.

My point was that, the government screws over the people too. So there is a reversibility to the cheating. It's not a domination.

No one "makes up the difference" (2, Insightful)

Kohath (38547) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764926)

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.

Re:No one "makes up the difference" (2, Funny)

JanneM (7445) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764972)

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!

Re:No one "makes up the difference" (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764989)

No deal. Just cut the taxes.

Re:No one "makes up the difference" (1)

bishop32x (691667) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765045)

This is the federal governemnt we're talking about. It will just run up a bigger deficit if cutting is too painful(like eliminating a subsidy for swimming pool construction in a senator hometown). It this point the government cannot effectivly eliminate the debt with either a) sacrificing essential services or B) increasing revenue.

Re:No one "makes up the difference" (2, Insightful)

Kohath (38547) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765082)

It this point the government cannot effectivly eliminate the debt with either a) sacrificing essential services or B) increasing revenue.

It's actually a lot easier than that. All they need to do is start increasing the debt at a rate slower than inflation. Eventually, it'll become a relatively small number and they can pay it off will a relatively small sum of money.

Re:No one "makes up the difference" (1)

s20451 (410424) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765151)

That's bizarre logic. By your argument, shoplifting is the fault of the store for charging too much.

"Fair play" (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#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" (2, Insightful)

ornil (33732) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765155)

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 cheater's pocket.

Exactly. (1, Redundant)

Pave Low (566880) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765085)

I submitted this article to slashdot(rejected, of course) [opinionjournal.com] , and the author makes the arguments along your line. The luddites and privacy advocates have engaged in scaring away any technological innovation in the remote possibility that your privacy is in jeopardy. Never mind these programs are using data that is already available. Somehow linking all this data and finding useful information from it turns into "Big Brother".

The Chicken Littles should read that article and see that they're barking up the wrong tree on this.

Re:Privacy Issues (2, Interesting)

DarkSarin (651985) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765150)

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 supposed to represent). In our day and age, with the methods of communication and data/idea transfer that are available, republics are now an outdated form of government.

The trouble is that most politicians are aware of this on some level, and it scares them to death! Which is right and proper, since it means that if the entire nation EVER wakes up to this fact at the same time, the politicians are in danger of losing their jobs.

The neat thing is that they make the rules, and if they can they will do everything they can to make the idea of changing how our government works a very unpopular/highly illegal idea. This is NOT a good thing.

This country was, fortunately, founded on the idea that from time to time the government might need to be reorganized. Unfortunately, I think that most of us have lost sight of that fact. (Don't get me wrong here, though. I am in favor of change, but not while we have unfinished business overseas. I don't want to be accused of anti-Americanism--I believe this country is very strong and is a good place to live (and if you don't agree, fine, but you then have two options: leave or change it--grousing is just annoying). We need to change though.)

As for taxes, I am NOT in favor of the current tax system, but I do believe that it is better to work within the system to change it, but if that is NOT possible, then it may require more drastic actions.

Taxes are a leech system, and very much unecessary. If we had a true democracy, we would cut out some of the MOST expensive government employees (the pro politicians), and save a ton of money each year. Also the people would have to decide what programs they wanted to spend their moeny on, and I guarantee that if they saw that oooh, hey, spending more money on this means my paycheck gets smaller (what you take home), then most people would cut government spending in many areas.

At the same time, I would increase gov't spending on the areas that are important--education, police, fire, and military. Welfare should be, and needs to be, a private affair, as does social security, retirement, etc. These are things that the community can provide IF there is an incentive to do so. That incentive can be provided in many ways. Personally I buy into the libertarian philosophy that IF you give people their money (instead of taxing them), then they will, on average, give more to charities and similar things than those charities ever get from taxes.

If you want a good rundown of this read this book by larry elder: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0312 284659/qid=1081129106/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/103-394713 6-0611016?v=glance&s=books
It's a great read for anyone who is curious about the libertarian philosophy, but isn't too preachy.

Personally, it's men like him that make the MOST progress against racism, not the people that are generally seen as civil rights leaders. Those people (such as Bell Hooks), are so often inflamatory instead of conciliatory.

However, I've said too much, I'm going to get flamed just as much as you now...Doh!

Tax $ Tug of War (5, Insightful)

erick99 (743982) | more than 10 years ago | (#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

Re:Tax $ Tug of War (1)

bishop32x (691667) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764962)

I think the simplest way to do this would just to make all data annonymous, that is no one can log into the system and look and data which passed muster.

Also, at this point, the IRS is only using government databases, which seems fine to me, if you give them the data, you might as well let them use it. However the problem at this point is their not telling us about it. Every form the IRS can review should be marked.

Re:Tax $ Tug of War (4, Insightful)

the_mad_poster (640772) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765005)

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...

Re:Tax $ Tug of War (4, Insightful)

bishop32x (691667) | more than 10 years ago | (#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?

Simple Solution (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8765042)

It's very simple in the USA:

-> 1/3rd of the people get a handout from the government and pay only sales, social security, and medicare taxes

-> 10% of the people pay 80% of the income taxes

Soloution is to switch to a national sales tax so that (a) everybody pays, even drug dealers and others that do not report income and (b) that recording and cheating on taxes is elliminated because of existing state sales tax collection methods

Yet more privacy issues. (3, Interesting)

BWJones (18351) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764896)

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?

Re:Yet more privacy issues. (1)

boarder8925 (714555) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764909)

I wonder if the same company behind MATRIX, Seisint is the company behind or involved with this new initiative?
Do you? =P

Re:Yet more privacy issues. (1)

Adriax (746043) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765083)

[i]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.[/i]

No more than when a cop drives around looking at pedestrians and cars for signs of inebration.

All they're doing is creating a search program that will look at all the databases at once and find stuff deep in 10million entry long lists, the stuff a human would never be capable of searching through in a timely manner, and without glazing over from monotony.

first in the line of (-1, Offtopic)

6spaces (673983) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764898)

posting
and I have
the first post
of the article
for teh first time evar!!!11

and I'm teh bestorz!
you kown it!

Re:first in the line of (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8764925)

You FAIL IT! Not only do you fail it, but you are condemned to a life of jizz mopping at the seediest strip club in West Virginia.

Re:first in the line of (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8764935)

are you american and posting with your xbox? are you on teh spoke and teh suxorz at the same time?

It's times like these... (0)

ItMustBeEsoteric (732632) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764899)

...I'm glad that my father is an accountant.

Re:It's times like these... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8764975)

just curious. is he a high income or low income accountant?

Re:It's times like these... (1)

ItMustBeEsoteric (732632) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765049)

Actually he mostly does tax work for medium-sized business, with a couple hundred employees. I'm just glad that I don't have to worry about doing my taxes/getting the software/adding more stress on top of work and college.

Re:It's times like these... (3, Funny)

Snad (719864) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765025)

... I'm glad I'm an accountant.

And that I live in another country!

It's about time (4, Insightful)

77Punker (673758) | more than 10 years ago | (#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!

They're coming for you! (1, Funny)

walter_kovacs (763951) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764913)

You better hide all your money under the mattress and stash the weed in your underwear drawer. ;-)

Re:They're coming for you! (1)

boarder8925 (714555) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764950)

...and stash the weed in your underwear drawer/blockquote>Just stash it in your underwear and hope they don't search you. =P

There is no reasonable expectation of privacy (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8764916)

There is no reasonable expectation of privacy in the world because there never was one to begin with. You can't lose something you never had.

We live in a web of interconnecting lives. Our actions have long-reaching effects on others, as theirs do on ours. The idea that a single man may live as a hermit in the midst of the civilized world is both absurd and problematic for being such a popular idea.

Privacy doctrine in this country has existed for one purpose: shielding domestic violence from public scrutiny. The whole private-sphere/public-sphere distinction arose so that some men could prevent other men from interfering in what they manage to pull off behind closed doors. Marital rape and worse violences have always been justified as located in the mystical private sphere.

As you cling to the arbitrary notion of privacy, you're doing little more than empowering men to rape and torture women.

It's time we got rid of the private/public distinction. No one ever had any actual privacy; merely artificially imposed curtains that conceal malicious actions by some against others. If this does anything to undermine public respect for such a morally bankrupt institution as privacy, then I'm all for it.

Re:There is no reasonable expectation of privacy (2, Interesting)

The_Mystic_For_Real (766020) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764994)

The idea that the only reason that anyone wanted privacy was because they were a male who wanted to abuse their wives. I think that there is more of a reason for our privacy to be protected than to allow us to commit crimes without being punished. Privacy is what protects freedom. If the government were to be able to look into whatever you do at any arbitrary moment, they would have total control over you. The fact is, the government is just a group of citizens. They have no need to know every detail of what I do with my money. My personal information does not need to be made public.

Get a national sales tax already (4, Insightful)

nizo (81281) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764918)

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....

Re:Get a national sales tax already (3, Insightful)

eupheric (618980) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764947)

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.

just some thoughts...

Re:Get a national sales tax already (2, Interesting)

TeraCo (410407) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764988)

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.

Ideally they won't keep it under the mattress, they'll give it to a bank, who [in exchange for a small amount of interest] will use it to provide venture capital to new companies to keep the economy moving! Now whether this works in practice is another thing all together :)

Re:Get a national sales tax already (1)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765097)

>they'll give it to a bank, who [in exchange for a small amount of interest] will use it to provide venture capital to new companies to keep the economy moving!

The banks have enough money to lend out regardless of how much people deposit with them. The can get all the money they want from the Fed at insanely low interest rates.

The point is that if people stop spending, then who will companies sell to? A certain percentage of people would stop buying their morning cup of coffee if it now cost X% more.

Re:Get a national sales tax already (1)

bishop32x (691667) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765027)

In addition, putting money into play, via spending, is one of the keys to spending.

I believe the correct phrase is In addition, putting money into play, via spending, is one of the keys to stimulating the national economy.

Also a higher luxury tax would work well to enhance the sliding sale, items woth more than 1000 USD, an not nessesary for survival(e.g. houses, wheelchairs...) would be taxed more than cheaper goods.

Re:Get a national sales tax already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8765101)

A wheelchair isn't a "luxury", you daft slut.

Re:Get a national sales tax already (1)

eupheric (618980) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765105)

That is exactly what I meant. Stimulating the national economy. Anyway, to replace the income tax by purely a sales tax would require a truly massive sales tax, which would shift the tax burden onto the poor. One issue with taxing expensive items more than cheap items is that luxury doesn't have to cost a lot of money. For example, is a $150 pair of shoes less of a luxury than a $200 cheapo computer? Which one is taxed more? How much more?

Get a national sales tax already-Percentages. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8765103)

Do what the bible suggests and make it a percentage. And yes even for people who hoard, the money will come back in play...later. Also it will catch any sources not normally declared e.g. drugs, undertable work.

Re:Get a national sales tax already (1)

rossz (67331) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765116)

Yeah, it's unfair when a poor person has to pay a huge sales tax when he gets a yacht.

Re:Get a national sales tax already (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8765127)

No taxes on unprepared food that is healthy. In otherwords, lettuce at a restaurant is taxed. At a grocery store, it's not taxed. Potato chips are taxed everywhere. A roasted chicken at the grocery store is taxed, but a chicken you have to roast yourself is not taxed. Baby formula is taxed, but with a prescription from a doctor it can be purchased tax-free from a pharmacist.

Simple clothing is not taxed. This means underwear, tennis shoes less than $30, socks, and plain clothes less than $30 in value.

Bus and subway tickets are not taxed. Services are not taxed, so feel free to spend as much as you want on a day-care, lawnmower boy, or prostitute.

Everything else is taxed.

And just to prove that even this tax system can be monkeyed with for political purposes (bonus points for finding the examples already given): Guns are taxed at double the rate, and anything with a peace symbol printed on it is tax-free.

Re:Get a national sales tax already (2, Insightful)

pete6677 (681676) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764948)

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.

Re:Get a national sales tax already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8764949)

Considering the items are illegal, I wonder how the government plans to actually tax them. AFAIK right now, states have sales taxes and they certainly don't get money from drug purchases. I believe the merchant is the one who actually turns over the tax money. Something who is involved in an illegal sale of goods probably isn't going to report it.

Re:Get a national sales tax already (3, Informative)

Snad (719864) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764980)

Considering the items are illegal, I wonder how the government plans to actually tax them.

They won't. But they will tax the spending of the proceeds of an illegal activity.

If I sell half a kilo of cocaine on the street, the government gets nothing. When I go to spend my ill gotten gains on a 72" Plasma TV set and an enormous diamond for my girl, then they get all the tax on those.

Besides, aren't illegal activities already theoretically taxable anyway? Wasn't that Al Capone's problem?

Re:Get a national sales tax already (1)

RLaager (200280) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764992)

When the drug money is spent on something other than drugs, it would be taxed.

Re:Get a national sales tax already (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#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

Re:Get a national sales tax already (1)

inode_buddha (576844) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765142)

Heh. My (former) doctor (now a State inmate) tried that one. True story: I slammed down half a pound of apple sauce an hour before the appointment.

He never called me again, after that.

Re:Get a national sales tax already (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764967)

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.

Re:Get a national sales tax already (0)

Ignatius_VI (587517) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764974)

That's a recipe for a recession, or a depression.

The more people save, the less money is being spent. The less money being spent, the less items companies will produce. Cutbacks are equal to layoffs, so even more people are out of work and spending less.

How can illegal money be taxed? You think the drug dealers are going to charge sales tax?

Re:Get a national sales tax already (1)

urmensch (314385) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765066)

I agree that spending is better for the encomomy than hording.

As far as blackmarket money is concerned, the drug dealers, who most likely don't pay income tax, would at least be taxed when they spend their money on legal things like food, clothes, etc.

If we legalized street drugs, then it *would* be possible to charge sales tax on that bag of heroin/coke/meth/marijuana/e/whatever. So make the illegal money legal.

Re:Get a national sales tax already (1)

djmurdoch (306849) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765137)

The drug dealers would just take their money out of the country and pay no tax. More or less what they do now, except it would be legal.

Or would you forbid people to transfer money out of the country? How would you import anything?

Re:Get a national sales tax already (2, Insightful)

Agent Green (231202) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764976)

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, there are a lot of people out there who bitch that the rich should be taxed at a higher percentage...but let's not forget that the wealthy spend their money too, which invariably helps out everyone.

Re:Get a national sales tax already (1)

bishop32x (691667) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765128)

The government shouldn't get into the area of determining what people "need". Yes they should.

Food, shelter, low-value clothing and medical products should be taxed less, additionally the governemnt should have the ability to reduce taxes on something to encourage consumtion, for example colledge tuiton, or job-retraining.

By creating a flat tax the governement loses some of its ability to fine-tune the economy. for better or for worse.

Why a sales tax won't happen (4, Insightful)

sjbe (173966) | more than 10 years ago | (#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.

Re:Why a sales tax won't happen (1)

Frisky070802 (591229) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765120)

Don't forget the issue of how such a change affects the current tax system. People who buy homes believing that mortgage interest and property taxes are deductible will be in deep doo-doo if they're not.

I'm not saying the system is fair the way it is now, only that changes like this can't happen overnight without turmoil.

Re:Get a national sales tax already (2, Interesting)

Marvelicious (752980) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765021)

Personally, I hate the concept of sales tax. It is a pain in the ass and even more irritating than a once-a-year nightmare. What we need to do is simplify the tax code by removing all the multitude of loopholes and tax breaks. That could instantly streamline the IRS (less loopholes, less time to audit, etc) force big business to pay their share (no loopholes, no high doller shady accounting) and probably make the little-guy's taxes much cheaper by bringing in the revenue that big business is supposed to be creating. After all, I remember Bush's tax cuts the last time they tried it (Reaganomics ring a bell?) and it didn't work then!

Re:Get a national sales tax already (1)

mako (30489) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765147)

There is no such thing as a tax on business. That cost will always be passed to consumers.

Re:Get a national sales tax already (1)

joe90 (48497) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765036)

Yep - heaps of other countries do that - it's called VAT, GST etc. Guess what? Income tax, luxury taxes and other sales taxes such as excise tax and duties etc. don't drop, or if they do, it's very temporary.

Governments get a whole lot of additional revenue and don't get *any* incentive to operate more efficiently. The burden of collection is usually on the seller, often without compensation - i.e. they become a tax collector without compensation.

Besides, doesn't state tax allegedly pay for various state benefits such as roading, education etc.?

How would you propose to fairly, equiably and *efficiently* distribute federally collected taxes to the various state treasuries (or what ever the correct term for whoever looks after state funds)? You can guarantee that many states will argue that fair and equitable should be needs based, or based on population density, or spending per head of population, or a bunch of other mechanisms that may or may not be good.

Not that I have any sympathy for tax collectors^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H blood sucking leeches.

Re:Get a national sales tax already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8765038)

A nice idea, but I think it has a critical flaw in it.

What if I just buy used items? Sure they'll get me on food, a house, car, etc.. But everything else? I'll buy my computer used, my TV, DVD player, etc. How would they collect any tax on that?

Re:Get a national sales tax already (1)

nizo (81281) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765143)

What if I just buy used items? Sure they'll get me on food, a house, car, etc.. But everything else? I'll buy my computer used, my TV, DVD player, etc. How would they collect any tax on that?Actually people already do that, since buying things at a yard sale is free of sales tax (it isn't supposed to be, but does anyone charge sales tax when they hold a yard sale?) Personally I think this would be great, since it would probably help keep useful stuff out of the landfill too (until all the used DVD players break, and everyone has to buy new ones).

Governments uses taxes to control... (0)

SailfishMac (732653) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765047)

Taxes are used as a leverage to get buisness and people to do things, since countries can print up more money anytime they wish. So one blanket tax would be ineffective control tool.

What part of sliding scale (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8765069)

do you not understand?

congress could change the scale at anytime they needed.

Do they use MS Products? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8764932)

As long as they dont use M$ products Im OK with it. Linux makes the world a better place.

Re:Do they use MS Products? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8764979)

I thought that empty, feel good Linux praise got someone modded +5 Insightful here on /.

Another way to accomplish this... (3, Interesting)

doormat (63648) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764946)

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...

Re:Another way to accomplish this... (2, Informative)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764996)

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! (2, Funny)

Quasar1999 (520073) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764966)

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!! (2, Funny)

ticklemeozmo (595926) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764969)

It's not too late to change your taxes!! :)

Hmm (0)

borius (711380) | more than 10 years ago | (#8764995)

Does this include Slashdot?

Will they be tracking email through CARNIVORE too? (2, Funny)

darthcamaro (735685) | more than 10 years ago | (#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? (4, Interesting)

ForceQuit (307355) | more than 10 years ago | (#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??

Re:What about bad data? (1)

Pahroza (24427) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765140)

At least I am not the only person with this problem! The IRS and SSA have my birthday wrong as well. They have my SSN listed as the birth year of my sister, with my birth month and day. Once I found that out, it made filing taxes via e-File easy. I just put the information they want with my social sec #, they get their money, and I get left alone.

IRS to link to ./ user DB (0, Flamebait)

IgD (232964) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765008)

Wouldn't that be exciting:)

They had this info for years... (3, Interesting)

Praedon (707326) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765010)

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!

10 Years Without Kurt Cobain Today (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8765014)

1 minute silence please.

Re:10 Years Without Kurt Cobain Today (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8765123)

it's tomorrow, dumbass.

Are the states going to list themselves ? (0)

MajorDick (735308) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765016)

In OHio the State is the biggest cheater/thief out there, about 2 years ago I got a state tax bill for 25,000 ! Now my income is in the 70's I aout had a heart attack, I call them and say what the hell is going on ! They tell me they will look into it and get back to me , about 2 weeks later I get a new bill with a note they have reviewd my returns etc. NOW They want $ 30,000 , Needless to say I told them to go f**k themselves. About 2 days later I got another letter saying that if I didnt pay or make arrangments to pay within 30 days they would put a lien on and possibly SIEZE my property ! So I transffered my home (clear at the time) into my mothers name (screwed up her capital gains tax but thats another story) AND I hired an Attorney. $700 later and about 2 months and it was all sorted out. It all stemmed from a vendors liscence I had , but I had never used it, I was at one time considering starting my own company. BASICALLY They ESTIMATED what my taxes SHOULD have been for the last 3 years combined, estimated based on what other business of the same description were making. NUTS !

Re:Are the states going to list themselves ? (1)

Highrollr (625006) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765102)

My dad works for the IRS, and you would not believe how much of this crap goes on. The attitude of the IRS (The guys running the place at least, not necessarily the rank-and-file types) is that you cheat on your taxes. No ifs and or buts. Their job is to punish you for it. Whether punishment is deserved or not is rarely considered.

Re:Are the states going to list themselves ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8765110)

i think i had the same problem one time, but that was years ago. all it keeps showing up on is my credit report as "i owe some state hundreds of thousands of dollars". argh. someday i'll get around to clearing it up, but i'd rather have my estate do it when i'm dead...

Catching tax cheats... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8765023)

Let's see, you hand out huge tax breaks like candy to any RICH person willing to make a big campaign donation, and then you spend your remaining money trying to figure out if the poor slob working at McDonald's transposed two numbers on his tax return. Yeah, that's a great way to fix your revenue stream problem.

Here's a batter idea: Let's make it so that if you earn over a million dollars in a single year, you MUST pay at least 1% income/capital gains tax regardless of the exemptions and loopholes you lobbied for!

Re:Catching tax cheats... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8765053)

Open the tax code and lookup the AMT (Alternate Minimum Tax). It is a LOT higher than 1%, and it is on gross income, not net.

What? This was a troll? Of course, how stupid of me.

Re:Catching tax cheats... (2, Informative)

fedork (186985) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765122)

too late! it already exists and is called Alternative Minimum Tax

No shit. (2, Interesting)

Pahroza (24427) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765063)

I just got a letter today telling me that the IRS had informed the state of Georgia about an adjustment made to my taxes, and that I now owe them (GA) an additional $1000+ due to that adjustment. Given that the tax year was 2000-2001, a hefty portion of that sum is penalties and fees.

Happy happy joy joy.

Just when you think you might be getting ahead.

It's always something.

I DO NOT pay taxes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8765068)

.

...it's not that I don't want to give Uncle Sam the finger, they screwed me and now I don't have to pay taxes on this pitiful pension I get.

But, all my medications are free...

Ass Kisser (0, Troll)

Knunov (158076) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765076)

You can stop sucking up. IRS folks don't read Slashdot.

Now, about this deduction for lunch at the Pink Pussycat...

Knunov

Office of Revenue Opportunities (4, Informative)

pongo000 (97357) | more than 10 years ago | (#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 (2, Funny)

bobetov (448774) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765098)

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????

Mass wants to catch NH shoppers (4, Interesting)

sdo1 (213835) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765109)

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

Shit (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8765111)

just kidding

yeah, that's the ticket.

taxes, phooey (1, Insightful)

segment (695309) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765114)


I don't see what the bitching is about. Is it "that" wrong to brand the homeless [politechbot.com] like cattle, use orphans for lab rats [axisoflogic.com] , during these times? During these times when al Qaeda... WHOA! THERE IS A TERRORIST ALERT. Sorry false post. Again, is there anything wrong with Big Brother coming for their fair share? Sheesh there is no conspiracy here, big brother only wants your share of the pie. Run along now, go play with Orkut [infiltrated.net] . Everything is fine, there is nothing to fear.

Use tax: The most cheated on tax ever. (4, Interesting)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#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...

taxes should be based on... (1, Flamebait)

paltemalte (767772) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765133)

Taxes should be more based on what you use, or benefit from. One should be able to opt out of paying taxes for road maintenance, if one can prove one does not use roads. One should be able to opt out of paying for the Iraq war, if one can prove how it doesn't benefit one the least (and that shouldn't be too hard for most americans). One should be able to opt out of paying for anything one hasn't asked for, or knowingly voted forth.

My tax dollars being spent against me... (2, Insightful)

Romancer (19668) | more than 10 years ago | (#8765141)



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!!
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