It's Time to Pull out Diogenes' Lamp
Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA - Los Angeles, CA - We're all familiar with Diogenes'search of Athens for an honest man.
Well, it certainly seems to be time to pull out that lantern and see if anyone in politics has a clean tax history. (Of course, if anyone scrutinized our taxes as closely, would be squeaky clean either?)
Today's top story at AccountingWeb.com is "Rangel Rule" would give taxpayers a free pass. It lists a series of Obama appointees that had not paid thousands of dollars in taxes - and paid nary a dime in penalties when they fessed up.
Huh? Haven't your clients had to pay when they faced substantial understatements of income. In fact, did you have to fight preparer penalties in any of those situations? Yet, these guys get off scott free.
And there's more. Aside from Secretary of Treasury Geithner, and about-to-be Secrtary of Health Dashle, and Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committe (that generates tax laws) Rangel - along comes Nancy Killefer,nominated by President Barack Obama to be the federal government's first chief performance officer. She doesn't even want to deal with tainting the administration with her personal tax issue - D.C. Unemployment taxes.
The point of today's rant? Twofold:
1) Why can't President Obama and his advisors vet their candidates BEFORE presenting as the chosen nominees?
2) Why can't they find qualified people who don't have major skeletons in their closet?
For instance, David Weidner wrote an excellent article in MarketWatch.com presenting three highly qualified individuals who would have been quite interesting for the Treasury post.
No doubt, there are people in this country who would be terrific for each position that needs to be filled, who've actually paid their taxes and reported all their income.
On the other hand, avoiding taxes, keeping taxes as low as possible, getting away without getting caught, when it comes to taxes is almost a national pastime, isn't it?
How often does a 'new' client come to you, telling you they want you to keep their tax bill below some specified amount - regardless of their actual profits? Naturally, if we can't convince them to file ethically, we send them away, right?
If you aren't doing that these days, you're endangering your license. Believe me, we face some pretty harsh penalties for helping clients break the law.
OK, back to politicians, whom we love to berate. It is a standing joke that it's hard to find an honest one. But, honest, hardworking, ethical folk would still have a hard time standing up to the kind of scrutiny that goes on in the glare of media. (Remember Geraldine Ferraro backing out of the vice presidential race - not because of anything SHE had done; but because of her husband's, separate, finances.)
Bottom line, before we throw stones from our glass houses, let's bring Diogenes' lamp a little closer. Do you think you're ready to face a Senate confirmation committee?
Eva Rosenberg, MBA, EA, is the publisher of TaxMama.com, and author of the weekly syndicated Ask TaxMama column. She provides answers to tax questions from taxpayers and tax professionals worldwide.