Tag Archives: IRS

First Amendment

So maybe it’s one of those obvious things everybody knows… 

But the saying that income under $600 doesn’t need to be reported to the IRS for taxes is a myth.

I realized this after getting an email from Kindle Direct Publishing stating “your 1099 MISC for royalties is ready for download” …about a week after I already sent off my tax return.

The good news is I doubt there’s a lot of taxes on maybe $50 worth of income. I got $22 in royalties and I sold a few books in person (with maybe $3 profit for each sale, but I have to check).

Royalties on a 1099 MISC are different than the self employed paperwork you have to fill out if you earned more than $400 in your business. And they also make it clear that money you make on side jobs still counts, despite that pervasive $600 myth. 

So NOT filing the amendment (since KDP has tax documents prepared) is more worrisome to me than whatever comes of sending in an amended return. I like the idea of showing the IRS “hey, I didn’t include this, but here it is, I’m doing the right thing and just being thorough, please don’t destroy me.”

And with such a small amount, I doubt anything’s going to change…

Other than the way I document whatever profit I make throughout the year. Even if it’s just “coffee money” here and there from selling a book in person, I want to have my ducks in a row. 

Ducks in a nice row don’t get audited as often. Or so I hope.

Happy tax season!

Social Media Auditing

It’s tax season. Imagine you finish your 1040 and send it off, only to learn that your taxes are being audited.

In the initial notification of a tax audit, you find this request:

As part of this audit process, please produce a copy of every 140-character message, commonly referred to as “tweet,” ever posted to your account on the social media website Twitter, as well as a copy of every post ever made to your Facebook profile.

How would you respond to such a request by an agency of the Federal government? How would you feel?

Today on C-SPAN, my wife watched the ongoing House investigation into the IRS scandal. Representative Ted Poe of Texas asked the representative of True the Vote, for confirmation, whether she was asked by the federal government to produce the following as part of her organization’s application for 501 c 4 status:

All tweets ever tweeted.
All Facebook posts, ever.
All the places she’s ever spoken publicly.
Copies of all speeches in those public places.
All the places she would speak in the future.
All the names or groups who heard her speak.
The mailing lists and attendee lists at each location.

Imagine running into that kind of request from the federal government, for just one moment.

I’m trying to think of what it would take to sit at the computer, copy and paste, and put together a Word document containing literally every tweet I have ever posted, every Facebook status update.

Every tweet from my recent road trip. Every status about something my kids did wrong. Every post I made about whatever interested me that day. Every expression of frustration at something political. Every comment I’ve made on anyone else’s status. Every celebration of how beautiful my wife and children are, and how grateful I am for my family.

I can’t imagine compiling and providing that to the federal government, mainly because why do they need to know all of that?

Critics dismiss these proceedings as made-up scandals, a spectacle, theater pandering to opponents of this Administration. On Sunday before the Super Bowl, the President famously commented on the ongoing investigation saying there’s no sign of corruption at the IRS. Much like discussion of misinformation intentionally released by government officials to the public concerning the attack at Benghazi, this IRS business is a non-issue, and the only reason people are still talking about it is because Fox News keeps telling them to. So the President believes.

I’m sorry. I get concerned when I listen to a list of special visits the rep from True the Vote enjoyed – as a supposed natural part of the process and not as any sort of government oppression at all, because clearly there was none.

Picture these folk knocking on your door:
SIX visits from the FBI investigating potential terror ties.
One visit from OSHA.
One from your state branch of the EPA.
One from the ATF.

Does that seem oppressive? Does that seem corrupt? Or does that sound like a made-up scandal?

I stop to think, “Hey, if we have a government that can do that to somebody and never have to answer for it, they will probably do it to anybody they choose.”

And that deeply concerns me.

And that, Mr. President, is why I’m still talking about it. Because it happened, and we’re all still wondering not how but if our government will keep it from happening again.

Welcome Debate

I just played a pretty cool game on the iPad. What do you think of it?

Silly question, eh? First you have to know what the game was, so that you could go play it yourself. Only then could we have a meaningful conversation about the game in question.

Let’s try a different one:

What’s your opinion of the first draft of my fantasy novel?

I know you’ve never read it, but I’m looking for meaningful critique. I need to know where I’m messing up and where I’ve got things right. So I’m eager to hear your point of view.

Ridiculous, isn’t it? Not if you’re the government.

Since government collection of data is all over the news this week, I’m going to assume your Google Fu is sufficient to find the applicable news stories.

I wish this was a surprise. The disclosure of information – that was a surprise, of course. But the idea that the government might be looking closely at the online activities of its citizens? Sadly, no, that’s no great shock in post 9/11 land. Everyone’s a potential threat, so everyone has to get monitored, because we MUST be secure, at any cost. Or so goes the logic, it would seem.

In response to the leaked information and the explosion of the story in the news media, the current administration’s answer is that they “welcome debate on these challenging issues” or something similar.

Well, that’s great.

But you can’t debate what you don’t know about, so that’s a pretty empty statement. Sure, our elected Congressmen get to discuss it (at least some small number of them do), but again, we’ll never know what gets decided and what points are made or left unsaid.

Given some quotes by Congressmen about seemingly basic subjects (i.e. “Guam might capsize if we put too many Marines on it” and “women can shut down pregnancy from rape” and so on), let’s just say I’m not so sure that a good sensible discussion will take place. But I’ll never know, so now I’m even more unsettled about it.

I get why. If we have a public debate about the means we use to collect intelligence on possible threats to American interests, those people are going to change their tactics. Now we’ll have no information instead of whatever we might have gained, and they’ll still be just as committed to their efforts against us, with little to stand in their way. So we really can’t just call some town hall meetings to figure out what level and methods of intelligence collection John Q Public is going to approve.

And maybe to some extent it’s our fault as a nation. When any terror event happens, there’s an outcry asking why we didn’t see it coming, why we didn’t prevent it.

You can only do that with information, so you have to collect lots of information in the hopes of getting the little pieces of the puzzle that you need. But then you’re treating the average American like a potential terrorist, in the hopes of preventing potential terrorism.

CNN featured a blog that referred to this newest round of scandal. It included a quote about this dilemma from former Director of NSA Michael Hayden:

Hayden went on to chastise what he called the “political elites” who criticize the intelligence community for not doing enough, but as soon as they feel safe, “pontificate that we’re doing too much.”

Reminds me of Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. “On the other side of that firewall are Chinese hackers looking to damage American interests and terrorists looking to kill American civilians. Someone needs to be watching your chat with your wife on Facebook… someone needs to be looking at every video posted to YouTube… someone needs to read through those e-mails. You want NSA on that firewall. You need NSA on that firewall. You go to sleep under the blanket of freedom they provide and then have the audacity to question the manner in which they provide it?”

Yeah, I guess we do.

I know very few people who trusted the government even a couple years ago. And then there’s all the Patriot Act style concessions, trading small liberties for a hoped-for but hard-to-prove increase in security. Plus there’s incompetence like Fast and Furious, followed by the appearance of political targeting of American citizens in the IRS scandal. Add to that the appropriation of phone records and such by the Department of Justice against reporters. And now this.

Is it government of the people, by the people, for the people? Or is it government of the potential terrorists, against the potential terrorists?

Uncle Sam is quickly becoming the creepy old man that I wouldn’t want anywhere near my kids. Too bad he has keys to all the locks on the house.