Tuesday, January 15, 2002

An Offer You Can’t Refuse (2002)

The numbers racket, protection, gambling. Looking for more ways to make money for the organization, they're now using fear and extortion to gather the income needed, making you an 'offer you can't refuse'. Am I talking about the latest episode of "The Sopranos"? Maybe one of the movies from "The Godfather" saga? How about your Uncle Herbert's 'business partner'?
Nope, I'm talking about our very own State of Connecticut. If you owe Connecticut back taxes, Tax Commissioner Gene Gavin is making you an offer you can’t refuse.[1]

Surely I'm not the only one that is concerned with the latest money-making scheme that "The State" has come up with for finding a way to pay for the bloated government? Radio and TV commercials aired for most of this past Fall describing CT's "tax amnesty" program, where 'they' were giving you the opportunity to 'come clean' on your taxes. While not being one to endorse avoiding paying taxes, I found Connecticut's strong arm tactics against the very citizenry it was alleged to protect and serve to be in line with HBO's favorite organized crime family. With slogans such as, "an offer you can't refuse" and "oh, we'll find you" how can one not 'get the hint'?

Connecticut's Department of Revenue Services (DRS) offered a web site for more information on the program. Plastered with Tax Commissioner Gene Gavin's mug shot glaring at you with a menacing grin from behind his desk (a visage worthy of Tony himself) the message is crystal clear: pay up or we'll break your legs. Well, maybe not that specifically but I quickly found myself rifling through all my Stop 'n Shop, Jiffy Lube, and Dunkin Donuts receipts to make sure I had paid all the taxes; after all, I didn't want to find myself on the wrong side of Gene "Tony" Gavin and the Department of Revenue Services! I'd surely hate to be remembered at my imminent memorial as a tax cheat, delinquent, or deadbeat! With a motto of "Either Way, You Will Pay! After Amnesty, you will definitely pay more!" The State began to make me worry about the health and security of my legs (and I don’t sleep well with horse heads, either.)

To make matters  worse, they've got the technology now: "According to Dr. Walter Zarycky, professor of political science at New York University...crime syndicates in America have brought a new level of sophistication, technical prowess, and ruthlessness to an already fiendishly competent and highly competitive criminal marketplace."[2] I guess this could explain the DRS's investment in newer, higher-tech electronic monitoring - uh - computer systems: "The ITAS [computer] system represents the most significant initiative in DRS history," Commissioner Gavin said. "This new computer system ultimately will help DRS further its mission...improve our ability to ensure that every taxpayer pays their fair share to the state...ITAS will give DRS a more precise view of Connecticut revenue collections...and provide a repository of taxpayer data from various sources."[3]

Huh.

A really scary part (as if it wasn't already) about all this is the crowing after the program ended on December 1st. The Tax Amnesty web site[4] was updated, with the submission information removed and replaced with a press release. This release praised "the whopping success" of the "unusually successful program". The State reported the preliminary numbers of total Amnesty programs collections "at more than $95 million, with the number expected to rise to more than $100 million by the end of the week."[5]

Well, yeah, even the 'family” pulled in some serious coin by threatening those they purported to "protect", but I don't ever see Tony sending out press releases...

"If everyone paid the taxes they owe, the state would be in a better position to fund the programs that improve the quality of life in Connecticut, and prevent in these difficult times, the need to possibly increase taxes on everyone," Commissioner Gavin said. [6] The DRS's press release stated that, "...it is also good news for the law-abiding taxpayers of Connecticut who will benefit from the success of Amnesty."

This is just one more log on the fire of a state government bent on increasing its size and scope, financing itself on the backs of the citizens via protection money (income tax), the numbers rackets (lottery), gambling and casino interests, and now fear and extortion. Our state government is acting in ways that would have caused serious prosecution and federal jail time if you or I did it, but it's OK if the government does it?

This could be a reflection of citizens or businesses that 'fail to pay their fair share' but it sure seems wrong that The State feels it has to threaten its population with its nearly omnipotent financial powers in order to get more money out of ‘em. It's pretty embarrassing, actually. Frankly, Governor, I'm not feeling any better about benefiting from this program; I think I'd rather pay extra taxes than have to live under a constant fear of a state government threatening me and my fellow citizens for extra spending money.

How about you?

"Commissioner Gavin said the only bad news is for those tax delinquents who did not come forward during Amnesty. As we did in 1995, DRS warned tax scofflaws that the 2002 Tax Amnesty was a limited-time offer,' Commissioner Gavin said. 'They had their chance to come clean. Now it is time for our audit team to track them down and make sure they pay their fair share like everyone else.'"

Thanks, Commissioner. I'm sure the citizens of the State of Connecticut will sleep better tonight.