Politicians should pay interest on unreported income

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April 15, a date that lives in infamy for many people, is rapidly 1040−ing toward us. If you have not already prepared your !@#$% 2008 income tax return, are not a member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet or are not U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D−Astoria) or U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, I suggest you take care of this matter post−haste.

Otherwise, it may take care of you. Remember, gangster Al Capone was indicted for income tax evasion and sent away forever.

We are learning more and more that our brightest and best−educated Americans at the top of government are refusing to pay their required taxes or intentionally “forgetting” to list large segments of their income on their returns.

On the rare occasions when some unlucky bigwigs are caught for deliberately cooking their income tax returns, by some miracle they manage to escape paying the required interest and avoid the sting of any required penalty.

How does this happen? The Internal Revenue Service audits only a tiny percentage of taxpayers. It leaves it to the majority of preparers to voluntarily show honesty and truth when submitting their 1040s. Compliance with our tax code is the glue that holds together our great society.

The common taxpayer complies. Apparently, many of our leaders do not. Let me count the ways.

Geithner oversees the IRS, but admitted in his U.S. Senate hearings that he had for years failed to pay taxes from a taxable fund that sent him checks and instructions to pay taxes on the money, improperly wrote off his son’s summer camp fees as a dependent−care expense and failed to pay thousands of dollars in Social Security and Medicare taxes.

He called these omissions an “oversight.” But the good secretary paid no interest and faces no charges on these blatant violations (thanks to Obama’s benevolence). You, I and Mother Theresa, however, would likely have faced criminal charges if we tried the same thing.

U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel dean of New York’s congressional delegation, confessed on the floor of the U.S. House that he had for years failed to pay tax on the rental income — $75,000 — from a resort property he owned in the Caribbean.

He also called this an oversight and agreed to pay all back taxes owed — fine and dandy — but again minus the interest and penalty, many times the original tax, you and I would have had to pay under similar circumstances — not fine and dandy.

To compound Rangel’s impropriety, as chairman of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, he oversees the IRS and drafts the nation’s tax policies.

Former U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle, nominated to be the U.S. Health and Human Services secretary by Obama, paid the IRS the back taxes he owed for 2003 and 2004, another instance of an oversight, but not the 2001 and 2002 taxes he owed — $146,000 — because the statute of limitations had expired. He apologized, and, pushed by the president, withdrew his name for the position.

Hilda Solis, nominated for U.S. Labor secretary, withdrew from consideration when it became known her husband, with whom she files a joint income−tax return, had many liens on his property for many years.

It appears we have a two−tiered tax system divided not between rich and poor, but politically connected and everyone else. Many leaders of society, and many unnamed in hiding, are not ethical in meeting their moral responsibilities as citizens.

So what should we do? I suggest either the IRS hold all “distinguished” lawbreakers fully accountable under the law or we pass a national law that allows all U.S. citizens who fail to file or owe back taxes to pay the required amounts due.

But all interest and penalties are to be waived as is done for the politically−connected.

It is necessary for all Americans to pay their true and honest taxes every year, and most Americans realize paying the correct tax is an obligation of citizenship. But it would be a travesty of justice to allow a select few to be treated more equally than the rest of us.

Contact Alex Berger at

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