Writer Ralph de Toledano has for several years been engaged in sporadic guerrilla action against the District's tax collectors.
Things reached a climax of sorts several years ago when de Toledano was notified that if he wanted to continue to work as a writer in the District of Columbia he would have to obtain a license. New law. Please remit $25.
De Toledano says his protest that such a law would be violative of the First and 14th amendments "was greeted - and I am reporting accurately - with laughter." He obtained a copy of the law and noted that it applied to "professionals" such as doctors and lawyers, but not to newspapermen. He decided to join other writers who had "told the tax people to go to hell."
Tax collectors do not take kindly to suggestions of this kind. They just stay on the job, and after a while they take a new bite out of their tormentors.
So it came to pass that one day the tax people notified de Toledano that he was $30 delinquent on his personal property tax. De Toledano wrote back and said he wasn't. Time passed.
Then one day de Toledano received a notice that an $89.97 lien had been placed against his bank account. By return mail, our hero demanded an accounting. How did the debt grow from $30 to $89.97?
Says de Toledano: "The department answered, 'How should we know? You tell us."
He cast the reply aside in disgust. The District thereupon seized $89.97 from his band account and sent him a "Removal of Lien" statement that informed him the District's lien of $60.10 had been satisfied.
The District's lien of what? What happened to the $89.97 figure? If $89.97 had been taken - and it had - then to what did the $60.10 refer?
As you can surmise, de Toledano asked those questions. All he got in reply, he says, was "double talk and some nasty language. Presumably the Department of Finance can hit me again for the $29.87 difference if it so pleases." He still doesn't understand on what basis the District billed him for these various amounts or decided how much to take from his bank account, and he's quite angry about this state of affairs.
My advice to de Toledano is: Don't get mad, pal; get even. Most people who tangle with tax collectors soon find that one can't fight city hall. You, however, have an advantage that most people don't share. You are a writer. You can write an article about your skirmishes with the District of Columbia and earn back what they took from you.
I figure that if you can sell the article for about $200 you'll be about to pay your federal income tax, District income tax and Social Security tax, and still end up with a small profit on the $89.97 they grabbed from you. One word of caution, however. Don't make the article funny. That could subject your $200 to a D.C. amusement tax.
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