Bozo Tax Tip #1: No Tax Form, No Income!

A new client was on the phone with me last week:

“Russ, I just found out that I don’t get a tax form for the income I earn.  That means I don’t have to report it, right?”

This individual is filing his first tax returns.  He just graduated college, and is self-employed.  He (thankfully) did keep good books and records, but no one sent him a 1099-NEC (several businesses should have) so his uncle told him he didn’t have to report anything.

Yes, the US has a ‘voluntary’ tax reporting system, but here voluntary doesn’t mean you can skip income without paperwork.  A better word than voluntary is “self-reporting.”  We self-report our income, and the fact that tax paperwork isn’t sent for everything is one of the causes of the tax gap.  As I explained to my client, all income is taxable unless Congress exempts it.  Congress didn’t exempt his self-employment income (indeed, it’s over $100,000).  I asked him if he might want to buy a home in the next two years (which I already knew he did want to do).  I asked him how he was going to qualify for a mortgage without tax returns filed showing income.

I explained to him that his uncle was correct in that many individuals do receive income ‘under the table’ and don’t report it.  I also explained to him that not filing a tax return when you have income is a crime, and you can go to ClubFed for it.  It’s a lot easier to file and pay your taxes and sleep peacefully at night then to do the opposite.  My client agreed, and his return was filed.

Of course, for those who want to live on the edge you can: Ignore income that doesn’t come with tax paperwork.  You may want to remember that if you’re ever audited the IRS might just do a bank account analysis and wonder where those deposits are coming from.

That’s it for this year’s Bozo Tax Tips. We’ll be back with some interesting (I hope) thoughts about Part I of the 2022 Tax Season in a couple of weeks.


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