January 29, 2010
During the week that this column runs, thousands of Cape Region residents will join millions of other folks in receiving some highly important documents, courtesy of our friends at the Internal Revenue Service.
In compliance with the nation’s income tax laws, this is the week that most of us receive our W-2 income statements, along with the ubiquitous 1099 forms.
The United States income tax collection system depends on voluntary compliance with the country’s tax laws and regulations, which if printed out in their entirety can take up a few bookshelves.
The IRS likes to encourage that voluntary effort, by timing their criminal tax prosecutions to coincide with the tax season.
In February 2009, for example, the IRS announced that they filed seven different criminal counts against long-time PGA and Champions Tour player Jim Thorpe.
Four of these counts were based on one of the simplest tax laws to understand: when you make the kind of money that a touring pro makes, you have to file a tax return.
The other three counts were also based on a part of tax law that everyone should easily comprehend: when you work up your tax returns and discover you owe the Feds, you actually have to pay them.
When the charges against Thorpe were announced, his attorney said Thorpe planned to plead not guilty. According to the Tampa Tribune, Thorpe and his attorney “looked forward to having a trial.”
Apparently they changed their minds.
On January 22, Thorpe appeared in Federal Court in Orlando, Florida for sentencing. In September 2009 he pled guilty to two charges of failing to pay his income taxes. He agreed to pay up all the taxes, fines, and penalties owed to the IRS. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the prosecutors said the total was more than $2 million.
The plea bargain did not come with a guarantee as to punishment. However, the Federal judges normally follow a complex set of sentencing guidelines. After a hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Karla R. Spaulding sentenced Thorpe to a year in prison, followed by two years of supervised release.
The judge noted that Thorpe had a long history of community service, including donations to church. Witnesses at the sentencing hearing also spoke about Thorpe’s numerous volunteer stints at charitable events. As for not paying taxes, however, and as the judge said, “This is not an example for anybody to follow.”
The PGA Tour takes pride in noting how many millions of charitable dollars it raises, and sponsors a series of television spots highlighting the good works performed by the members of the Champions Tour and PGA Tour.
Whenever folks decide that real charity begins at home, on the other hand, they should remember that the IRS may not agree.
Another winter-appropriate ruling from the USGA
Despite the recent warm spell that the Cape Region enjoyed, there are plenty of signs that winter remains upon us.
That’s one reason why the USGA’s Ruling of the Day from the past week should have some resonance for local golfers.
Q: May a player brush dew or frost from his line of putt?
A: No. Rule 16-1a prohibits touching the line of putt except in removal of loose impediments, repair of ball marks, etc. Dew or frost is not a loose impediment — see Definition of “Loose Impediments.” Accordingly, such action would be a breach [of that rule].
I don’t have any argument against this ruling, but I wonder about one aspect of it.
Why would a thinking golfer risk causing serious damage to a green’s turf, by walking on it while it is covered in frost?
As for the dew, however, golfers should take advantage of its presence, instead of trying to clear it away. The dew line left behind by the rolling ball can give golfers valuable feedback, about the slope of the green and also the quality of their putting stroke.
There’s also the fun little rooster tail you can see as the ball speeds toward the hole.