Christmas is almost here, and that means millions of parents across America are telling their kids to behave themselves or risk winding up on the “Naughty List.” (Admit it – if you’ve got kids, and you celebrate Christmas, you’ve done it yourself.) But while kids may be on their best behavior, grownups sometimes fail to make the connection between their own behavior and what Santa leaves under the tree. This is especially true when it comes to taxes! Misbehave there, and you risk a lot more than a lump of coal. So here are four cautionary tales to consider as the holiday approaches.
- Joel Grasman worked as an electrician for the Metropolitan Transit Authority in Long Island. He and his wife owed the IRS $10,000 in tax for failing to report a loan from her pension. So, late one night, Grasman snuck into the yard where he works to steal some welding machines to pay off that debt. He loaded the machines onto his truck just fine, but forgot to lower the long boom on the truck before driving off to store the machines at his brother’s garage. Uh oh. “I wanted to get out of there before I attracted any attention and I forgot to put the boom down,” he told the New York Post. “I started driving and then I started to see sparks of light in the sky.” Turns out he had taken down a bunch of power lines, causing an estimated $2-3 million in damages, and leaving 6,100 people without power for their Christmas lights and blinking yard Santas.
- Yetunde Oseni was a 37-year-old secretary working for the IRS in Maryland. Like many of us, Oseni loved shopping online, especially on Amazon.com. From 2009-2013, she stuffed her stockings with $8,515 worth of treats, including a chocolate fondue fountain, Bollywood movies, Pampers, Harlequin romance novels, Omaha Steaks, Apple Bottoms skinny jeans, mango body wash, and even a Ginsu knife set. She might still be enjoying her presents now if she had used her own credit card to pay for them. But the IRS gave her a CitiBank MasterCard to pay for office supplies, and it must have been just too tempting. Now she’s looking at ten years in a cheerless gray room with no space for any of those goodies. Treasury scrooges say she may have even used her IRS computer to fake the receipts she submitted to cover up her purchases!
- Walter Trizila is a more loyal employee than Joel Grasman or Yetunde Oseni – but can he make the “Nice List”? Last November, IRS officers showed up to seize a dump truck from his employer. Trizila climbed into a front-end loader, scooped up a load of dirt, drove it towards the officers, and dumped the dirt at their feet. After pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of assault, he accepted three years probation – and promised to attend anger management class.
- Robert Fernandes got a great deal on a foreclosed house in Forks Township, Pennsylvania. But his wife homeschools their three kids, so he’s not a fan of the school district tax. Now, you or I might just concede the value in having good public schools, even if we don’t have kids using them. But not Fernandes! No, rather than just grumble privately and write the check, he marched to his local tax collectors with a stack of 7,144 dollar bills. He even brought a friend with a camera to document his stunt on YouTube. Fernandes may not have actually broken the law here, but he’s still probably going to find himself on the naughty list. (He may have realized it, too, since he brought doughnuts for the county clerk’s office!)
Here’s the saddest part about all these stories. You don’t have to risk finding a lump of coal in your stocking to pay less tax. You just need a plan.