'Render Unto Caesar'—Tips to Navigate the Income Tax Maze

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Feb. 3 is the anniversary of the income tax. Originally sold to the public as a scheme to soak the rich, it soon became apparent that the rich alone could not support our expansive government. Now about 150 million income tax returns are filed and Americans pay over a trillion dollars every year into the black hole of government.

Like it or not, it is our duty as citizens, and good advice, to "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's" (see Matt. 22:21). If the good citizenship reason is unappealing, Jesus's second meaning was that giving Caesar his due protects you from Caesar. Our modern Caesar can garnish your wages, take your cash, seize your home and occasionally put people in jail. As our Supreme Court once famously said, "The power to tax is the power to destroy." Believe it.

Your first step to avoid the jaws of destruction is to make an honest effort to comply with the law. You can and should use every legal means to minimize your taxes, but don't lie on your tax return and don't fail to file a tax return. Even if you owe money and can't pay, filing the return will save you penalties and possible criminal actions. If the IRS contacts you about your taxes, pay careful attention to the response deadlines and procedure so you do not lose your rights to dispute an IRS claim.

Yes, you do have rights in tax matters if you play by the rules. You can present your case to the agents who contact you, their supervisors, the separate IRS Appellate Division, and even go to the Tax Court before you can be made to pay a disputed tax. For underpaid taxes you already owe, you can normally work out a payment program you can live with, reduce the taxes to a lower amount through an "Offer in Compromise", or even eliminate some old taxes though bankruptcy.

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Of equal importance is the simple fact that most IRS employees are just good people working on a job. Most of them are not interested in destroying you unless, of course, you thumb your nose at them. You can help yourself a lot by being polite, compliant and prepared. You can also hire someone like an accountant to help you negotiate through the IRS maze.

So render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's, and protect you and your family from Caesar.  

Ron Allen is a Christian businessman, CPA and author who serves in local, national and international ministries, spreading a message of reconciliation to God, to men and between believers. He is founder of the International Star Bible Society, telling how the heavens declare the glory of God; the Emancipation Network, which helps people escape from financial bondage; and co-founder with his wife, Pat, of Corporate Prayer Resources, dedicated to helping intercessors.

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