You may have read articles in The Washington Post or elsewhere about people who have been attempting to avoid tax withholding by filing W-4 certificates on which they grossly overstate the number of withholding allowances for which they qualify.
This is often followed by not filing income tax returns, claiming various quasi-constitutional grounds for nonpayment.
One group in Michigan, called "We the People Act," has been active in fostering what has become known as the "Flint tax revolt." Been wondering what's happened to these people?
Well, on June 26 one Lee B. Hall, who works at the GM Truck and Coach Division in Pontiac, Mich., was found guilty of three counts of filing false W-4s and two counts of failing to file federal income tax returns. In mid-August he was sentenced to three years in prison.
Dean S. Hazel, also a GM employe, was convicted by a jury in Detroit on July 31. The charge: Two counts of filing false W-4s. The sentence: Two years in prison.
And James G. Lott has just been sentenced to two and a half years, after his conviction on two counts of false W-4 filing and five counts of failing to file returns.
Last May the IRS reported that in the preceding 30 months 265 illegal tax protesters had been convicted of criminal tax offenses. At that time the service was actively conducting criminal investigations of 362 other suspected individuals.
In addition, the IRS was taking civil action to insure payment of tax by these people. As of Sept. 30, 1980 -- the latest date for which they released figures -- they were examining more than 11,000 returns and checking out 1,440 suspected tax protesters who hadn't filed.
At Hall's sentencing, Judge James P. Churchill said, "All of us know what the law is. These arguments about unconstitutionality and the dollar not being legal tender are nothing but unadulterated snake oil. The income tax law has been part of the United States' structure for 60 years and has been abided by hundreds of thousands of people. Nothing is more clearly established than the tax law you have thumbed your nose at."
In fact, not "hundreds of thousands" but literally tens of millions of people regularly file honest tax returns and pay the tax -- despite reservations by most of us about the wisdom with which our tax money is spent.
We have probably the highest rate of voluntary tax compliance of all the countries in the free world -- due not only to fear of the consequences for nonpayment, but also to our sense of moral responsibility to support our government.
But the record of compliance has been slipping in recent years, and is in danger of worsening. The clear message to the powers-that-be: If you want the citizens of this nation to pay their taxes willingly (though probably never cheerfully), you have to eliminate the pervasive sense of government waste and fraud now so widespread.
Question: My wife and I are in the process of purchasing a cooperative apartment as an investment (so it will be sub-let to others). What kind of insurance is recommended?
Answer: This is a deceptively simple question -- without a correspondingly simple answer. A co-op is a different breed of cat than a condominium, and the insurance implications can be considerably more complex.
As you pointed out in your letter, you don't own the apartment; instead, you own shares in the co-op corporation and hold a proprietary lease on the apartment.
Neither a homeowner's policy nor the standard condo coverage is appropriate. A renter's policy won't work either, particularly since you won't be occupying the apartment yourself.
There is no pat answer. The best advice I can offer is to consult an attorney who specializes in co-op real estate. (Your local bar association should be able to identify some for you.)
He should research your contract with the corporation to determine the extent of your obligations. Then he should review the co-op master insurance policy to see what aspects of your obligations are not covered by the master policy.
There may not be a standard policy form to satisfy your needs, so you may have to go to special underwriting. This can get to be pretty expensive; but it may be the only way to prevent a natural disaster from turning into a financial disaster as well.