By Stacie Clifford Kitts, CPA
Can’t seem to file your tax returns on time? Do you have an aversion to paperwork?
Well – you’re not alone. You could be suffering from a controversial syndrome which makes it difficult for you to face the ordeal of completing your tax return.
Still not sure? Take a look at the additional following criteria. Does this sound like you?
Are you sophisticated, both financially and with respect to taxes?
Is the ultimate discovery of your failure to file obvious to you?
Are the potential penalties, financial and professional, clear to you?
Do you acknowledge that penalties will likely occur?
Is there no clear benefit to not filing because there is no significant tax due, or you have the money to cover the tax liability, or you can easily barrow the money to cover the liability?
Do you have a history of filing in the past?
Do you file extensions and pay estimated tax payments?
Are you anxious and obsessed about not filing?
Do you exhibit self destructive behavior by waiting to file your returns until the IRS is upon you?
If this sounds like you, you may be exhibiting symptoms of “Late-Filing Syndrome.”
According to tax lawyer Richard S. Kestenbaum, Late-Filing Syndrome is the reason that five years of tax returns amounting to approximately $300,000 of tax liability, penalties, and interest were not filed by New York Governor chief of staff Charles O’Byrne.
The New York Times reported that “late-filing syndrome, sometimes known as non-filing syndrome or failure-to-file syndrome, in not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” However, according to the Times, “legal experts said that it is not uncommon for tax evaders to claim they suffer from such a syndrome, because it can shield them from criminal penalties.” This is true because the IRS must prove that a tax payer willfully intended to evade paying income taxes.
I must admit, an aversion to filling out paperwork is something I certainly can relate to – especially around April 15.
Absent further evidence, this syndrome appears to be a creative and possibly effective attempt by attorneys to protect their clients from criminal prosecution.