By Carl Sundberg
April 22, 2004
I'm not entirely sure, but I think I might be a criminal. If I am, the crime is not severe in my mind. It is nothing like what other beasts have done in our history. I have not killed anyone, set fire to anything, molested a child or mugged a broke old woman. But in the eyes of the government, I may just be an outlaw.
You see, at the time of this writing, my taxes have not been filed. At the time of this publication, my taxes will remain unfiled. Most likely, one year from now, my taxes for this year will not be filed.
It's not a protest or anything. However, consider what the current administration is doing:
1) Giving corporations huge tax breaks while the average break for the rest of us is worth a six-pack and a hot dog.
2) Stirring up the hive in Iraq in the name of some misguided attempt at "liberation."
3) Any of the other horrid things that are being exposed now by people like Richard Clarke, Ron Suskind, Bob Woodward or Paul O'Neill.
Given all the aforementioned, I could easily say I do not support this kind of behavior. I could easily say I will not pay my taxes until those crooks in the White House are either ousted or slowroasted over the media coals for the rest of their slimy careers. I could say that.
I could also say that I didn't file my taxes out of confusion. Those tax forms are like coded Sanskrit to me, and I have no idea what I should be looking for or at when I'm doing this ugly American ritual. I have filed my taxes for five or six years now, and every single year it is a weekend journey into the true heart of bedlam.
The first couple of years I filed, I got them done for me, but it turned out Uncle Sam owed me money, so I didn't even need to worry. But every year thereafter, I have done them myself. Every year thereafter, I received a letter back from my government bitching at me for every minute mistake I made on all my forms. And last year, somehow, despite the fact that I followed an Internet tax program to the tee, I still got a letter back from the government. This time I owed them. Which was strange because I made about as much money as a street corner bum with a sign. But confusion was not why I didn't file my taxes this year.
In all honesty, I didn't file my taxes because I was busy. I had things to do. It simply slipped my mind. No harm, no foul. Now that I've gotten this all on paper -- this torrid confession -- I've probably opened myself up to public scrutiny. But I've decided to hold off on the whole tax thing until I am at least a functional member of society (i.e. I' m out of college and I have a paying job). At that time, anything I owe my government will be paid in full.
But the question still remains: Am I criminal? I have asked several people over the course of a week this question and every person seems to have a different answer to my conundrum.
Some people say yes I am a criminal, some say I'm not, some pray for my damned soul and some tell me I should flee this evil empire while I still have the chance. I don't know who to believe anymore. So I turn to the only man I can look to for true guidance and support in my dark hour.
As you may or may not know, Willie Nelson, one of our last living American outlaws, was dropkicked by our government in 1990 for not filing his taxes for six years. His golf course, recording studio, ranch and pretty much everything Nelson owned -- everything except his legendary Martin guitar, which he still plays to this day -- was seized by the Internal Revenue Service. Nelson owed nearly $17 million in back taxes.
To get out of his financial quagmire, he recorded and released an album called "Who'll Buy My Memories?: The IRS Tapes" and made some Taco Bell commercials. By 1993, Nelson was freed from his tax chains.
Of course, I'm not quite on the scale of Willie Nelson, but my predicament is similar. And as far as I know, Willie Nelson never went to jail for this, so in my mind, he was not a criminal. In my simple monkey logic, what separates criminals from the rest of us are bars. And if Willie Nelson wasn't behind them, he wasn't a criminal, therefore, neither am I.
If I am wrong, the IRS knows where I live.
Originally published in the Oregon Daily Emerald