By Any Other Name

In Shakespeare's classic drama Romeo and Juliet, star-crossed protagonists from feuding families meet and fall in love. In Act II, when the impossibility of their courtship has become clear, Juliet leans out her balcony and declares to her lover "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet." The line, of course, implies that Romeo's last name should mean nothing, and the two should be together.

Shakespeare may or may not have been right about love and roses. But what about taxes? Does that which we call a "tax," by any other name smell as sour? Apparently, Washington thinks not — if you pay attention to all the new euphemisms, you'd think Washington has given up imposing new "taxes" entirely!

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If you don't take care of your taxes, you risk some pretty expensive fines and penalties. Some of those amounts are fixed, like $89 per partner per month for failing to file your partnership return. Others are based on the actual tax due, like the 10% penalty for failing to file employment taxes. If the IRS has to come after you, they can slap liens on your home or other property. They can impose levies to pluck back taxes from your paycheck, your bank account, or your retirement plan. They can even seize your assets and auction them to collect their pound of flesh.

Having said all that, would it surprise you to learn that there's someone with a "Get Out of Jail Free" card for not paying his taxes? Would it surprise you even more to learn that it's Uncle Sam himself?

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration ("TIGTA") is an independent board that oversees the IRS. Their job is to audit, investigate, and inspect the tax system itself, as well as to prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse within the IRS and related entities. Last month, the TIGTA issued a report with a bland and vague title: A Concerted Effort Should Be Taken to Improve Federal Government Agency Tax Compliance. But that deceptively bureaucratic name masks a pretty outrageous conclusion: