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EDITORIAL: Anti-tax Crusaders Put Onus on Rest of Us

April 18, 2011 (Erie Times-News, Pa.) If you have to ante up to the Internal Revenue Service today, you probably aren't thrilled.

But according to a new poll by the Associated Press-GfK, 54 percent of Americans think their tax bills are somewhat fair or very fair, compared to 46 percent who say they are unfair.

No matter what your gut feeling is about being taxed, most of us will pay our taxes because it's the law and because we feel obligated to keep our nation in the business of providing vital services. Citizens don't agree on the scope of such services; recent letters to the editor have questioned spending on foreign aid, education, Planned Parenthood, and salaries and perks for elected officials, among other issues. Nevertheless, most of us recognize that government performs necessary functions. Witness a letter signed by U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-5th Dist., who favors federal subsidies for small airports in the Essential Air Service act. A fiscal conservative, Thompson represents constituents in north-central Pennsylvania, and rural areas say air service is vital to their economies. Federal dollars subsidize such service because airlines say they couldn't afford to serve these areas without the subsidy.

On the other hand, consider the curious case of Ebert Beeman, who represents the 6th District on Erie County Council. Beeman, a Republican, is embroiled in a dispute in which the IRS has accused him of failing to pay taxes. The IRS has gone to court to seize four parcels of property in Waterford to settle the government's claim that he owes $2.1 million in back taxes and penalties. The IRS says that Beeman failed to pay federal income taxes in 1994, 1996, 1997, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Beeman, a retired welder from General Electric Co., says he fell behind on taxes when he made about $100,000 in day trading in the stock market and failed to file returns.

But Beeman is also known for his opposition to taxes and for his anti-government views. For instance, Beeman has been convicted six times for driving without a license. He objects to state rules requiring him to provide his Social Security number to obtain a license.

In court documents, Beeman calls U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner the "alien custodian for Prize and Booty." The IRS says Beeman still hasn't provided any evidence to dispute the agency's back-taxes action. Instead, his legal arguments are all based on "tax-defier theories," according to IRS attorney Ari Kunofsky.

On March 8, the federal government charged Beeman with eight felony counts of Social Security fraud, claiming he used false names to obtain a Social Security number to use in applying for credit cards, a loan and jobs.

The outcome of Beeman's civil and criminal cases are still to be determined. But for those who file taxes and pay what's owed, it is galling to read about "tax-defier" tactics. When they don't pay up, we do, and that isn't fair.

Copyright (c) 2011, Erie Times-News, Pa.

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