Monday, May 5, 2008

What's To Know?

I keep seeing remarks in various online forums, usually among the comments, dealing with each individual's responsibility to know about and pay any and all taxes for which he or she is liable.

I pay my taxes, but I'd like someone to tell me in what universe it's possible to be sure all one's obligations are known, or even knowable. These days even tax professionals are unable to ferret out everything that could impact a person's tax liability. To ask your average individual to have a thorough grasp of the state and federal tax codes is like the medieval Church expecting the average peasant to be intimately conversant with the Nicean Council's Athanasian objections to Arianism. 

"Ignorance of the law is no excuse." Best I can tell this is derived from ancient catholic (as in orthodox) church law, and while it sounds forceful is not in fact anywhere codified in these United States. It may be reasonable for the authorities to stipulate to it concerning traffic laws, since states have programs that at least attempt to educate those who will be using the roads about those laws, but tax codes of every stripe grossly exceed its bounds both as an aphorism and as a viable legal principle.