Death and Taxes

April has come and gone, and virtually all of us have dutifully filed a tax return or an extension. The anti-tax mob hasn’t gone anywhere. Somebody’s going to have to pay the tab, according to their means. Despite the sequester that wasn’t supposed to be, replete with “For special friends of Rick’s” special interest mulligans, the bugaboo of taxation hasn’t left us.

“Only little people pay taxes.”

helmsleytroubleWith those infamous few words recalled by her housekeeper, the late hotelier Leona “Queen of Mean” Helmsley got sent “up the river” almost 20 years ago to federal prison for tax evasion. Fortunately for Helmsley, she would end up behind bars at the Federal Correctional Facility, Danbury, Conn., near her old palatial estate, Inmate Number 15113-054. No chocolate mints on the bunk pillows, though.

A recent review of the Internal Revenue Service’s attempts to snare American tax scofflaws overseas have quietly returned over $5 billion to the taxman and treasury. IRS receivables have been atop the Office of Management and Budget’s High Risk List of underperforming Federal programs for decades, A series of programs to bring tax cheats out from the shadows, often with reduced penalties, made the well-travelled freeloaders reluctantly come clean. Better to pay tax penalties than join crooked Tyco exec Dennis Kozlowski for metal tray dining in the joint. Second place 2012 Presidential finisher Mitt Romney’s loss was in part related to his campaign stonewalling on the release of the Mittster’s tax returns, as well as his stealthy Swiss and Cayman Islands holdings.

Before we celebrate, however, Loonytarian smirker Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has been using an arcane Senate hold rule to bottle up myriad tax treaties. Self-board-certified Doc Paul the Younger seems to owe more ideological fealty to the long dead Ayn Rand than the GOP’s usual clients: American corporations. American corporations with offshore business holdings are frustrated by which tax rules to follow as a result.

In the largest economy in the world, the United States has complex tax laws, many admittedly skewed by special interests.

Other nations also tax world-wide wealth and have complex tax laws. I recall the promoters of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.)’s fave scheme of a “territorial” tax loophole, citing, of all places, Norway, as an example to protect the trillions in offshore U.S. corporate loot from the IRS. One cannot pick and choose tax levies as if they were on a Chinese restaurant menu, “One from column A, and one from column B.” Functional national economies have tax systems.

Lisping anti-tax terrorist Grover Norquist would implode if he had to pay the full smorgasbørd of Norwegian taxes. Alas, the five million happier inhabitants of the land of trolls, fjords, and lutefisk enjoy a booming prosperity and around a 3% unemployment rate. National health care, and a viable safety net. Six-figures a head stashed away for the future from petroleum export levies for every Norsk-speaking man, woman, and child. Sustainability.

Wasn’t was Weeper of the House John Boehner (R-Oh.) whining about “job killing” taxes and regulations?

The late Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes owns the quote “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.” It took an $850 million fine for Swiss banks to squeal details on U.S. tax cheats hiding in the cookoo clocks of Zurich and Bern. Tax treaties provide negotiated rules and some relief from dual taxation. U.S. corporations dislike uncertainty even more than paying their fair share of taxes. A smirking freshman Senator from a bluegrassed Appalachian Red state which lives off the tax surpluses paid in New York and California stands in the way.

The Internal Revenue Service continues to make progress in fairly collecting taxes due. The taxman deserves a pat on the back and legislative support so all taxpayers could be able to count on fair tax laws and treaties, not Rand Paul’s Loonytarian Koch family wet dream.

We can’t expect to be as lucky as Leona Helmsley’s dear departed pooch, Trouble, to whom she left $12 million. The Senate is supposed to ratify treaties as part of its’ brief. International tax treaties help make sure everyone pays their fair share.