Sunday, April 01, 2007

Give to Caesar...

The conversation went something like this:

Guy: You paid your taxes yet?
Me: No. I figured them the other night, but haven't written the check.
Guy: You mean you gotta pay? We're getting a refund. Pretty nice one, too. You know, my wife is a [ fill in name of service industry here ]; she claimed $16k in income, which is about half of what she actually made since most people pay in cash. Then she claimed $14k in business expenses. I'm figuring we're gonna get about $4k back. You need to get YOUR wife into [ name of service industry ]!

I guess my copy of TurboTax needs to be updated because I don't recall any part of the "interview" process asking me if I had any cash income that I would like to NOT REPORT! I was amazed at how easily my "friend" defended his under-reporting of income. (I was even more amazed to find out later that he and his wife are regular church attenders where they BOTH teach Sunday School.) I'm sure I've missed or forgotten to report something on my tax return, but the amount this guy's talking about is pretty significant. I've heard other people make similar statements. "No, I don't report everything. Why should I? The government takes too much to begin with. I'm not cheating, just getting even. They've got plenty of money anyway. My measily 'couple o' hundred bucks' isn't going to hurt anything."

I actually worked with a guy at one time that reported contributions to a church that HE DIDN'T EVEN ATTEND. According to him, included in his itemized deductions, he always reported some "odd" amount ("the IRS won't question an odd amount--it looks more legit") on his return, usually several thousand dollars. This man had NEVER attended the church; in fact, he didn't even believe in God, but he--as far as the IRS was informed---was a faithful tither to his local church.

There's nothing wrong with taking all the legitimate deductions you're intitled to; look for those expenditures that can lower your tax liability. We itemize our deductions and it helps, but the bottom line is: we owe more than we had withheld, mainly because the company I work for had a good year and my year-end bonus was bigger than we anticipated. That's a nice "problem" to have, but I guess I'm just naive...or maybe the Bible means it when Jesus says: "...give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's" (Luke 20:25)

I'm going to pay what I owe. I'll sleep better...and I won't have to worry about what the IRS considers a legitimate amount to NOT give to to the church I DON'T attend.

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